Cat Dog (Mem Fox & Mark Teague)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Cat Dog by Mem Fox and Mark Teague, a seemingly-simple yet surprisingly intriguing look at narratives and point of view.

There are two things the reader can be sure of: 1) there is a dog in this book, and b) there is a cat in this book. Beyond that, the details can get, well… fuzzy. The description of a simple scenario between a dog, a cat, and a mouse in a living room becomes more complex with the introduction of unreliable narration and shifting perspectives. As the story unfolds, readers can decide for themselves what actually took place – and what happens next.

Deceptively complex. The idea of unreliable narration can be tricky for children’s books, but this one balances the concept well with a simplified story, uncomplicated text and some hilariously illustrative artwork. As each page asks a question of the reader, and the following page answers with either yes or no, giving young bookworms the opportunity to guess for themselves what might happen next, and leaves the final question open-ended so they can imagine how the story might further unfold. It’s a clever concept, and very well executed. The illustrations do a great job of portraying the multiple possibilities presented through subtle shifts in tone, details, and the body language of the animals. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed this one, especially the twists and turns and easy-to-read text. Overall, this was a really interesting read, and well worth checking out. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Fly! (Mark Teague)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightful Fly! by Mark Teague, a wordless tale of a baby bird learning to leave the nest.

In a cozy nest perched in a tree, a baby robin grows from a pink, featherless hatchling to a robust fledgling as its father dutifully feeds it worms. When the time comes for the little birdy to spread its wings, the father encourages his little one to try hopping out onto the tree’s branch. Frustrated, the chick does so… only to tumble to the ground below. Winging down to his child, the father notes that the little bird must fly up on their own, as he cannot carry them. And so begins a hilarious negotiation between parent and child of the merits of learning this new (and maybe, possibly, a little bit daunting) skill.

Wonderful! I have to admit, I’m not always the biggest fan of wordless picture books, as they can often feel like less of a shared experience with JJ (mostly due to my own lack of narrative capabilities). Yet this one was filled with such a tight narrative, so much good humor, and so many clever tweaks to the genre that is was a blast to make up our own dialogue. Much of this is due to Teague’s brilliant use of “speech bubbles” that do not display text, but instead smaller pictures that imagine what the characters might be saying. These, combined with the brilliantly-illustrated expressions, convey a clear tone and motivation for each character, providing a structure for their imagined dialogue. Especially funny are the chick’s proposed alternate modes of transportation, such as a sports car, a plane, and a hot air balloon, to name a few. There’s also something nice about the depiction of a single-parent relationship of father and child, a much rarer occurrence in picture books (though it is quite subtle, and those unfamiliar with the gendered markings of robins might be inclined to see the adult bird as a mother). The length is great, and JJ had lots of giggles for the robins’ antics. A fun read for any age, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)