Two very different but equally delightful books from Tulika (India) provide a treat for catlovers to share with their children.
The cover of Where’s That Cat? (Tulika 2009/2011) shows a cheeky wee ginger kitten peeking from behind a curtain (and this is mirrored on the back, but Pooni the cat is no more than a cut-out outline) – but it offers no clue as to the rich detail of the book’s Indian setting. However, I was sure it would be a treat because it is written and illustrated by Manjula Padmanabhan, who created the wonderful I Am Different. Manjula gave some background about Where’s That Cat? in a blog post for Tulika when it was first published in 2009.
Little girl Minnie comes home from school and can’t find Pooni. She goes into the garden but, funnily enough, Pooni doesn’t come when she’s called! Minnie asks people all along the action-packed street if they’ve seen the cat, and meanwhile young listeners/readers will be eagerly hunting her out as she goes about her business, practically under Minnie’s nose. Unusually for this kind of book that plays hide-and-seek with the reader, there comes a point when it really does seem that Pooni has disappeared, and readers’ dismay may equal Minnie’s – but, of course, by the end there is general relief from everybody both inside and outside the book. Pooni has the last word – “Prrr” – and the final illustration shows Minnie cuddling Pooni, who is no doubt completely unaware of the trouble she has caused. You can almost hear her purring!
The second book is Miaow! by Alankrita Jain. There are no humans in this story, just two cats, one black, one white; both with green eyes. The story is short and whimsically charming. A black cat falls into a can of paint and becomes a white cat – until it rains and the paint all washes off. Then it meets a white cat and they become friends… maybe even fall in love, but that is left to readers to infer. The simple story is told elegantly, and the stylised cats in the illustrations capture beautifully the elegant (yes, there’s that word again!) stretches and shapes that cats manage to make with their bodies. An added bonus are the absolutely gorgeous inside covers that are filled in the manner of traditional Warli art (see Tara Books’ Do! for example) with little black cats doing all sorts of (human) activities.
Do take a look inside both Where’s That Cat? and Miaow! via Tulika’s website (click on “Look Inside” under the cover image). Like all Tulika’s books, both books are available in several languages, and Miaow! is bilingual with English – the copy I have is English/Hindi, translated into Hindi by Sandhya Rao. Both these books are perfect for young children, especially if they are at the stage with their reading that they want you to read to them, and then pick the book up for themselves.