Big Cat Little Cat, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper, teaches a lesson of life and moving on through the heartwarming, yet heartbreaking story of two cats. Published in 2017, it received a Caldecott Honor Award for its bold black and white illustrations.
What drew me into this book was the simplicity of the illustrations, the contrasting of black and white, and the simple yet powerful storyline. The illustrations throughout the book stick to this black and white theme and simple in nature, making the images all the more powerful. Cooper’s use of blank space allows the readers eyes to focus solely on the cats, and permit the images to stand out and speak for themselves. The writing style of this book is also extremely effective, using simple sentences that carry immense emotion. The story begins with the white cat’s life before the black cat enters it, portraying the cat doing things alone.
The second cat enters the story as a tiny, almost helpless looking kitten. The contrast on this first page is effective in showing the differences between the two cats, one small one big, one white one black. It also shows the dramatic face to face interaction when they first meet. Then, the story continues with the bigger cat teaching the small cat how to go about every day things. This page creates emotions in the readers as the two cats are beginning to bond and play, and their friendship and blooming. It shows the clumsiness of the black kitten in contrast with the wisdom and steadiness of the white cat.
The story continues through the days, months, and years going by as these cats spend all their time together. As the years pass, the black cat eventually grows larger than the older cat, and soon after that, the older cat has to leave and doesn’t come back. This moment is narrated simply with the phrase “and that was hard,” understating the pain but effectively packing an emotional punch. The black cat is then greeted by a new tiny kitten, and he is forced with making the transition from Small Cat to Big Cat, from being the mentee to the mentor. The message this book sends is an important one for children to hear, as it deals with love, loss, and moving on. These topics can be difficult for young children to understand, and this story gives a simplistic, emotional image of what it looks like. The power of the book is really in it’s simplicity; it uses everything it needs and I wouldn’t add a thing.