Well. Midsummer's Day is past, the days are getting shorter, and winter is on its way. Once again spring was too short for all that I wanted to do. However, there is always next year. I always looked forward to the new school year for this reason--it was a fresh start, a blank slate, a chance to actually acquire good study habits (I pulled my first all-nighter in 5th grade. I have not made any progress since then).
So in this hopeful, looking forward to school frame of mind, today's book review is a first day of school story: Splat the Cat, written and illustrated by Rob Scotton (HarperCollins, 2008). Never before has an artist so vividly captured the anguished nervousness, verging on hysteria, of a kitten who doesn't want to go to school.
Splat is scared stiff on the morning of his first day of school, and every little hair in his fur is charged with electric tension. To comfort himself, he packs his pet mouse, Seymour, in his lunch box. But when he opens it, and the other kittens see A MOUSE, pandemonium ensues as they chase after him. Splat goes Splat as he tries to save his friend. But Seymour wins the approbation of the class when he is able to open the jammed milk cupboard, and Splat, now that he knows the other kittens believe cats can love mice, looks forward to the next day of school.
The illustrations offer engaging shifting perspectives, a tremendously amusing cat child, and some visual jokes for the keen eyed child or adult. But the pictures lost me when Splat arrived at school. Splat is an unclothed black cat. All the other kittens are clothed, greyish, shadowy and kind of spooky cats. It's a scary school even before the other children try to capture Splat's beloved pet.
In short, this isn't a book I would recommend to the child nervous about the first day of kindergarten- I'd suggest Rosemary Well's animal children instead. This book is more for unflappable kids, and grownups, who like their picture books slightly surreal and slightly slapsticky.
Pictures from Splat the Cat can be found at Rob Scotton's website. Another review can be found at Cheryl Rainfield's blog-- she finds the book reassuring, not kinda scary, the way I do.
Scotton is also the author of Russell the Sheep. Having typed that, I am wondering if it is a pun, as in cattle rustling. Probably not, because if Scotton had wanted to make that joke, he would have written Russel the Cow/Bull. Oh well.