Picture Book Reviews: What Cats Think & Triceratops Stomp

Welcome to another picture book review post! Today is all about creatures (very!) big and small. Courtesy of my friends at Pajama Press, I will be talking about two new titles: What Cats Think by Mies Van Hout, with text by John Spray; and Karen Patkau’s Triceratops Stomp. Enjoy!

 

 

Now, watch me do my cuddly act,
then tickle my warm belly.
Scratch behind my silky ears,
then pet me till I take my nap.
Coo…

Canadian author John Spray (who is also a private investigator and the creator and sponsor behind the John Spray Mystery Awardfor excellence in mystery writing for children“!) teams up with celebrated artist and illustrator Mies van Hout (Surprise, From 1 to 10) for What Cats Think. If you have ever wanted to get inside the mind of a cat or have ever imagined what cats could or might be thinking while experiencing various emotions, What Cats Think might just be the read for you! From ‘Pamper’ to ‘Vexed, ‘Charmer’ to ‘Capture’ and more, Spray presents a short free verse poem to convey the wide-ranging, enigmatic thoughts and feelings of various cats at various moments in their lives. Readers will discover just about every kind of cat from the sweet and curious, to the annoyed and terrified, all the way to an adorable kitten being cleaned by its mom, and a pouting cat in trouble for getting “on the counter” to test some delicious smelling food. Mies van Hout’s acrylic ink, gouache and oil pastels artwork is typically stunning, eye-catching and vibrant: there are distinctive colour palettes for each spread; each drawn cat is unlike the one before; and I would be absolutely remiss if I did not mention that the cats are drawn with remarkably expressive faces, bodies, and tails (there are some cats that had me giggling over their expressions and thoughts!). There is much to pore over in What Cats Think and I enjoy that it doesn’t necessarily have a linear direction to it: that means that whether a reader is absorbed by the artwork, or particular cats, or particular poems- Spray’s poems are whimsical and should be hugely appealing to younger and older readers!- or whether a reader wishes to enjoy the picture book beginning to end, the story simply works. For the cat lovers, for the readers who enjoy their animal stories in verse, and for those who enjoy cat-focused stories such as I Hate My Cats (A Love Story), Mr. Pusskins: A Love Story, the Fuddles books by Frans Vischer, I Won’t Eat That, or Galia Bernstein’s I Am a Cat might especially adore What Cats Think.

 

Nestled in the ferns is a clutch of BIG eggs.
Tap-tap. Peck-peck. Crack. Crack. Crack.

Canadian author, illustrator, and visual artist Karen Patkau (Ecosystem series, Creatures Yesterday and Today) brings readers a lively tale perfect for toddlers and preschoolers with Triceratops Stomp. Opening with a look at seven large triceratops eggs that soon crack and hatch under the watchful eye of their intimidating mom, Triceratops Stomp follows the activities of the dinosaur babies and their protective mom. From hatching and stretching to eating, things soon take a turn toward the dangerous, however, when thuds and stomps and a huge “ROARRR!” lead to a showdown between the triceratops family and a scary T-Rex. With a “Can You FIND Me in the Story?” dinosaur look-and-seek as well as a “This is how BIG we were” comparison spread of the dinosaurs featured in the story to humans, Patkau’s story is really tailor-made for young dinosaur enthusiasts. The digitally rendered illustrations gave me pause for a moment- I initially wondered if they were arresting or bold enough- but I think the slightly softer composition and green-leaning colour palette works well for this straightforward story, and for the intended audience. Perfect for fans of rambunctious and simple-to-follow dinosaur-centered picture books such as Nicholas Oldland’s Dinosaur Countdown, Jane Yolen and Mark Teague’s How Do Dinosaurs…? series, Bob Shea’s Dinosaur Vs. series, or Stephan Lomp’s Mamasaurus, Triceratops Stomps is solidly entertaining fare. Triceratops Stomp might work especially well as a read aloud for an under-five storytime group: the onomatopoeic lines in the story are practically calling for exuberant readers and listeners to chant and repeat!

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Pajama Press in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

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