Cat-itude: I Am Cat by Jackie Morris
I AM CAT.
AT NIGHT I PROWL, BUT IN THE DAY I SLEEP, CURLED IN WARM PLACES, AMMONITE TIGHT.
AND WHEN I SLEEP I DREAM.
This glowing ginger tabby sleeps spiraled tightly, tail to head on its oriental collage cushion, lost in a dream of his feline cousins, each different, in diverse places, but each clearly partaking of the essence, the archetype of cat.
I DREAM THAT I ROAM DEEP IN THE JUNGLE, BRIGHT FLAME CAT STRIPED LIKE THE SHADOWS, SUN-SCORCHED.
Like this tiger, some of the cats portrayed are familiar. The lion, "sun tangled in my mane," lounges through the heat of the day with its pride, with only the energetic cubs awake and playing. The cheetah, the "sharp-eyed running cat, fast as the wind," brings down an antelope after a brief chase. But some of the felines are few, unfamiliar to most readers, like the Scottish wildcat:
...THE SECRET CAT, WILD IN THE MOUNTAINS, ANCIENT, ALMOST A MEMORY.
Another, the amur leopard, seems to sing its own death song, "...almost the last of my kind."
In its new American edition, I Am Cat (Francis Lincoln Childrens Books, 2013), Jackie Morris' lyric free verse narration is set off by stunningly, elegantly beautiful large-format watercolor illustrations of ten cats in their natural environment, including the dreaming marmalade cat cozy on his favorite cushion. Not intended purely as a nature study book, this one does offer a close look at each species of the cat clan, each specific, with its own characteristics, but each clearly feline, with the lithe shape and gaze that is pure CAT. This lovely volume invites lingering over each of its pages, each featured member of the feline family faithfully but artistically portrayed in all its comely cathood. "... Rich in language and eye appeal," says School Library Journal. "A lovely hybrid," adds Kirkus Reviews.