Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cat and Fish Go to See

I have a bit of a thing about children's books. Partly because I spent so much of my childhood reading, and also because I have a daughter with an insatiable appetite for new books, which I much prefer to having to read the same one over and over (that was her 2 year old phase, and these were usually plotless Disney princess 'books' and I use that term loosely).

We bought this at Berkelouws, the fabulous book shop in High Street, Armadale (there are also about four shops in Sydney). So fabulous I have to show the exterior:

Cat and Fish Go to See is the (eagerly awaited) sequel to Cat and Fish. It is by Joan Grant and the illustrations are by Neil Curtis.

I think it's okay to reveal plot twists. In fact, the whole plot. Why not?

Cat and Fish are friends of course, which is kind of a problem because Fish can't really exist on land and we all know that Cats hate water. So they co-exist together in a kind of limbo land. When Fish is in water he is happy but Cat is a bit screechy and scared, and when Cat is on land she is happy and purry but Fish is afraid of dying. (Well this is what I read into it. It's just a children's book after all).

They are curious about where the waves come from so they set off to discover the answer. They land on an island and meet all kinds of animals who help them: 12 wise owls, and eagle on his crag. When Fish is out of water he sits in a little claw foot bath or is carried in a basket because not only does Fish need water to survive but he has no feet and thus must be carried to and fro.

There is a beautiful scene of Cat and Fish in a lighthouse tower, Cat sitting on a ledge and Fish in his bath, looking out over the darkness pondering life. One important topic of conversation is whether they would be happier as mixture creatures (ie Fishcat or Catfish -see my not very good quality picture below). They decide no, they are happy as they are. They thrive on their interdependency, I think.

This is a rare book where the writing and illustration are of equally high quality. The illustrations are all in black and white and look to have been engraved (or even done by linocut - I have painful memories of that method at school). This has produced spare, almost haunting images.

What a beautiful book. I love reading it.

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