A master of animal countenance, Gravett pairs an expressive cat with a busy kid and winks at the difference between textual and visual message.
Matilda likes many things, including riding bikes, climbing trees, funky hats and fighting foes. Each spread shows Matilda playing at one thing while the text claims that her orange tabby enjoys it. “Matilda’s cat likes playing with wool,” it begins, as rosy-cheeked Matilda romps inside a huge, multicolored wool tangle and launches a ball of yarn toward the cat. He looks up with wide-eyed trepidation. On the next page, the words “playing with wool” are neatly crossed out and replaced by the word “boxes”: The narration now admits that tabby doesn’t like playing with wool but instead claims he likes Matilda’s box-stacking-and-hiding game (actually he looks alarmed). This pattern continues, the text asserting and then retracting (with cross-outs) what the cat likes. A tea party dismays him, as Matilda serves him an unpeeled banana. A bedtime story causes stiff-tailed, whiskers-on-end terror—though is it due to Matilda’s storybook, Gravett’s own Dogs (2010), or the large dog/wolf shadow puppet casually cast by her chubby fingers? Matilda sports a head-to-toe tabby suit, linking cat and girl all along; the shrewd and skillful art implies sly underlying affection even when the cat’s nonplussed, worried or asleep.
Even Matilda’s cat would like this. (Picture book. 3-6)