A careful observer might notice many similarities between a young cat and a pre-school aged child. Both are curious, filled with wonder at the world around them, busy, playful and occasionally just a wee bit naughty. It is safe to say, however, that both also possess a ration of timidity, caution and wariness of the unknown.
Such is the mirror by which Eric Rohmann defines the audience for his latest picture book, A Kitten Tale. Four happy-go-lucky kittens a brown one, a gray one, an orange one and a yellow one frolic on a simple white cover, inviting the reader into this refreshingly basic tale. Opening pages depict the four friends dancing with their shadows and impishly chasing a bumblebee. The plot is quickly established in the first page of text when we see the yellow kitten, clearly the most adventuresome of the lot, with its backside extruding from a mailbox. Postcards flutter down, among them some cards depicting wintry scenes. The kittens are struck with fear. What will happen when the snow arrives? We will be cold to the tips of our tails, one kitten intones. But the yellow cat cries, "I can't wait." Worry persists among the felines and as the seasons change, each one chimes in with its own refrain as they fret about being cold and wet and covered with piles and drifts of snow. Still, the yellow kitten mews with optimism, "I can't wait."
Rohmann, known for his Caldecott Award-winning book, My Friend Rabbit, as well as the Caldecott Honor book Time Flies, uses monotype prints in soft colors, offset by bold black frames, to beautifully support the story. Young children and parents alike will enjoy the wonderment on the kittens' faces as a wordless double-page spread reveals a surprise ending. This charming book with its sensitive contrast between a young one's natural reluctance and lively fearlessness will have many children begging to be read to, and their families replying, "I can't wait."
Jennifer Robinson is a teacher in Baltimore.