This slim British import, which combines beautiful artwork and brief, poetic text, seems more likely to appeal to adult cat lovers than to young listeners, but the dichotomy at its heart may be intriguing to some children, and the lush language pleases the ear and offers plenty to discuss.
A placid black-and-white cat gazes out from the front cover. Inside, each double-page spread features a realistic colored-pencil and watercolor portrait of the same cat engaged in typical feline pursuits. When licking a paw clean, she’s a “[f]urry, purry puss.” The turn of the page shows her with a dead mouse clamped between her jaws and offers this description: “Scourge of the mouse /… / All fang and claw.” Dunbar’s verse varies in quality but overall succeeds in capturing the cat’s essential character. Light backgrounds contrast with darker, shadowed ones, while the texture of the paper adds depth and interest to the simply sketched settings. Barton’s illustrations emphasize the differences outlined in the text: The cat’s eyes vary from gray, black and white to a vivid, menacing green, and her claws and teeth are prominently featured on the “Cat Hyde” pages, while “Puss Jekyll” is shown in nonthreatening poses.
Whether or not young listeners are familiar with the origin of her names, the evocation of the two sides of a familiar and beloved pet will resonate. (Picture book. 4-7)