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Book Review: Black Cat

July 2nd, 2010 (12:05 pm)

This is another of the evaluations I wrote for my children's literature class.
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Myers, C. (1999). Black cat. New York: Scholastic Press.

Christopher Myers’s Black Cat is a poetry picture book about a cat who roams the streets of New York. This book is appropriate for students throughout the elementary grades. Its rhythmic language and collage artwork appeal to a wide variety of ages. It introduces readers to poetic devices such as simile – “sauntering like rainwater down storm drains.” Its theme is the search for a home in a big city. The text has predictable elements. The invisible narrator often addresses the cat directly and rhythmically, with questions like “black cat, black cat, we want to know/where’s your home, where do you go?” This particular stanza is repeated throughout the book, providing a measure of predictability. While the vocabulary is simple enough for younger readers, the poetic language will engage readers who are beginning to develop metalinguistic awareness.

The collaged illustrations feature a black cat painted on photographs of areas in Harlem and Brooklyn. The cat is usually shown in the middle of motion. Each page or spread relates directly to the text on the page. The images juxtapose photographic realism, which matches the theme of finding a home in the streets of New York, with the more fantastical painted postures of the cat – including dunking itself through a basketball hoop – which suit the poetic language. 

The book is a large vertically-oriented hardcover with high quality pages. Endpapers feature photographs of parts of New York where the black cat might roam. Type is a bold sans-serif font, easy to read, in bright colors which vary to contrast with the colors in the illustrations. Sometimes the text is set directly on the picture and other times it is set on a black background. The pages are sturdily sewn into the book.

The colorful collages and text, as well as the poetic language, capture the energy of a lively city. This picture book’s rhythmic language and distinctive style of illustration might capture the interest of a variety of elementary-aged readers.