Feline freaky Friday
Satoshi Kitamura's cats have charmed young children before. His spunky board book hero, Boots, is a fine feline example. This time, in Me and My Cat? (ages 4-8), a cat and his boy awake one morning to find they have switched bodies. One night, without explanation, "an old lady in a pointed hat" paid a quick visit to Nicholas and his cat, Leonardo. The next morning, Nicholas is awakened by an impatient mom who doesn't notice his sudden preference for breakfast on the floor. Actually, Nicholas doesn't seem to notice any change either, until he begins grooming what appear to be whiskers. With childlike acceptance and catlike narcolepsy, he checks himself out in the mirror, marvels briefly, and falls asleep in an armchair.
After a refreshing catnap, Nicholas begins to think being a cat might not be so bad. After all, cats don't go to school. But, after wreaking havoc with the furniture and various neighborhood animals the inside and outside worlds he knew well enough as a boy he learns life as a cat is "as tough and complicated as it was for humans." When the real Leonardo (in Nicholas's body) comes home from school, the mischief is eloquently depicted with lots of small pictures and few words. The image of Leonardo-as-Nicholas sitting in the litter box will be enormously popular. (What adventures befell the disguised feline at school is left to our imaginations. Ask your child what they think might have happened.) Mom, thankfully, does not remain oblivious. She is worried about her son's peculiar antics, and there is a redeeming picture of her embracing a wide-eyed, purring Leonardo-in-Nicholas tightly on her lap.
Do Nicholas and Leonardo ever get their own bodies back? It won't spoil the surprise ending to admit that the witch returns without explanation but with an apology and reverses her mistaken spell. The picture on the last page gives a hint about what really happened.
Overall, the balance of text to image is ideal for younger readers, even those with short attention spans. Kitamura's award-winning artwork is charming, relaxed, and witty, and the surprise ending leaves reader and listener with a light-hearted zinger.
Joanna Brichetto and her aged black cat, Bob, live in Nashville.