Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cat & Mouse by Ian Schoenherr

I love little kitty; her coat is so warm.
And if I don't hurt her, she'll do me no harm.

So I won't pull her tail, nor drive her away,
But kitty and I, very gently will play.

A jaunty, tiny-parasol-toting mouse has nothing but kind words for the cat of the house, as, tongue in cheek, he taunts and teases the long-suffering but secretly intrigued tabby as they play out the fabled narrative of cat and mouse.

To the measured cadence of "Hickory Dickory Dock," the mouse stays one step ahead of the cat until he is forced to zip up the pull chain of the cuckoo clock and take refuge inside the cuckoo's door. When the cat lays a claw on the clock, however, the mouse jumps free, using his paper umbrella as a parachute to the floor and makes a well-timed dash for his mouse hole in the wall. On a wordless double-page spread, we see the amused tabby playing with the left-behind parasol while the mouse peeps from the safety of his hole.

But the gray mouse still has a few tricks up his paw. Rolling an enticing ball of green yarn out of the mouse hole, he lures the cat into attacking it, rolling over and over with his prize as the mouse shrewdly reels the ball of yarn back toward his hideout.

I'll never vex her, nor make her displeased.
Kitty can't bear to be worried or teased.

When the cheeky mouse makes a lariat out of the free end of the yarn and deftly lassos the kitty's back toe, it appears that tabby is beginning to show a bit of measured vexation, as ears back, she lets out an exasperated meow. To make amends, Mouse slyly pats the kitty's toe, and the encounter ends, as it began, in a cat and mouse stalemate, to be continued, we presume, only as long as it takes for the tabby to finish her timely bowl of milk.

She'll sit by my side, and I'll give her some food,
And kitty will love me, because I am good.

Ian Schoenherr's illustrations for his latest, Cat & Mouse, are exquisitely done, imparting just the right touch of irony in juxtaposition with the old nursery rhyme's sweet counsel for kindly cat care, in a delightful reinterpretation of an old rhyme which will make it memorable for the youngest readers.

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