First published in the U.K. in 2012 as Hans and Matilda, this quirky import combines minimal text, an odd twist and charmingly childlike pictures to create a brief (a)morality tale.
Matilda, an anthropomorphic cream-colored cat dressed in a red-and-white polka-dot dress leads a blameless, if somewhat boring, life. Hans, meanwhile, is also cream-colored, though he sports black whiskers. Unlike Matilda, Hans lives to misbehave. While Matilda spends her days reading, gardening and tidying, Hans plays tricks and commits vandalism. When Matilda sees a wanted poster promising a big reward, she decides to turn Hans in. Whether she earns the reward is not revealed, but her behavior and Hans’ certainly change as a result of her decision. Yokococo uses short, simple sentences to convey the action. Her mixed-media–and-watercolor illustrations have clean lines and appear to mirror the simplicity of the text. Closer examination, however, reveals that not only have a limited palette and matte paper been used for Hans’ adventures, but Matilda’s more colorful scenes appear to have been created on textured paper. This difference effectively prevents readers from predicting the plot twist while also emphasizing the cozy feel of Matilda’s environment.
Sophistication of illustrations aside, it is essentially a one-joke tale that will leave readers and listeners wondering what the point is—if any—yet still isn’t likely to stir up much real interest. (Picture book. 3-6)