This Winner’s Wednesday I chose Brenden Wenzel’s They All Saw a Cat, which won a 2017 Newberry honor award. This charming picture book takes readers through the life of a cat while he walks through the world. On this cat’s journey, we see him through the lens of all the different animals he encounters while he roams. Portraying the cat differently through each animal’s point of view, Wenzel opens up thought-provoking discussion about perspectives, perception, and imagination. This is beneficial in introducing to young readers the concept of understanding another’s point of view: that everyone sees things differently. It makes you wonder, what do you really see when you see a cat?
My favorite contrast in the book is how the dog and the mouse see the cat. As readers well know, dogs and mice have quite opposing feelings towards cats, and the illustrations in this book do a fabulous job emphasizing this difference. The dog sees the cat as a distorted and skinny, with a disproportionately sized bell. The dog watches the cat pass by, as the cat cautiously eyes the dog. This shows how to the dog, the cat is weak and tempting to chase or prey on. In contrast, the mouse sees the cat as a vicious predator, with intimidating claws and fangs. The color in this illustration adds to the scene that is quite frightening to the mouse.
There are several unique views of the cat in the rest of the book, including how a bee, a fish, and a bat would see the cat. These images of the cat not only bring interest and imagination into play, but they can also be teaching moments while reading with young children. The bee’s vision of the cat is portrayed as if looking through kaleidoscope glasses, which is how bees are believed to see. The fish sees the cat through the cloudy water of its fishbowl. Cats are notorious for liking (to eat) fish, and this illustration shows the intimidating nature of the cat through the massive eyes looking at the tiny fish. The bat’s view of the cat was another one of my favorites. Since bats cannot see or hear, but rather they use echolocation to detect shapes of things, this illustration is particularly genius. The cat is seen as a compilation of white dots in the dark outdoors, showing the bat’s echolocation skills. This is a great teaching moment to introduce this science topic that can be tricky for young children. All of these things will inevitably be taught to children either at home or in school, but the visuals in this book could be an extremely helpful tool to aid in the lessons.
Wenzel’s illustrations and ideas in this book are a unique and valuable addition to the world of children’s picture books. As the cat walks through the world “with its whiskers, ears, and paws,” readers are absorbed and fascinated with the way we all see differently.
Sarah Megan Erb