The Pete the Cat cash machine grinds out another nursery-rhyme–based picture book (Old MacDonald Had a Farm, 2014).
Here, the heavy-lidded cat contemplates (kind of) a twinkling star. The book’s chief value is in reproducing all five stanzas of the traditional rhyme, presumably to give artist Dean enough material to fill another 32 pages. The aesthetics that have informed the franchise throughout are scrupulously maintained, resulting in the odd, if predictable, disconnect between the celebratory text and the couldn’t-care-less protagonist. The verse “How I wonder what you are!” is paired with an image of Pete letting his stoner stare rest on readers, ignoring the telescope that is trained on the twinkling star: He couldn’t look further from wonderment. In a delightful departure from his approach in Old MacDonald, Dean seems to be trying to impose a narrative in which Pete ends his day of play to go home, eat supper with his equally bored-looking family, bathe and go to bed. Unfortunately, inconsistency in the color of the sky—it’s often painted noonday blue and at the beginning discordantly shifts from dusky blue to sunset yellow—unmoors readers, and the illustrations often have nothing to do with the text. Pete is at his most appealing when asleep and dreaming of flying a spaceship to the star, one of the only moments in the book when text, tone and visuals truly align.
For fans only. (Picture book. 4-8)