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Cutler, Ebbitt.

Illustrated by Rist Arnold. Montreal, Tundra, c1985. unpaged, paperbound boards, $7.95, ISBN 0-88776-177-1.

Reviewed by André Gagnon

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

Rist Arnold, author of I Like Birds Tundra, (1976), presents a second counting book. In a story created by Ebbitt Cutler to go with Rist Arnold's art, If I Were a Cat I Would Sit in a Tree introduces numerals from one to twelve. Each illustration shows various breeds of cats in different situations, ranging from tigers swimming in deep water to alley cats staying out at night. The final page shows one cat reading in front of a fire place, suggesting that, although more cats might be noisier and merrier, to be "one" might be best.

With the exception of numbers seven and eight, Arnold uses a double-page spread for each number, with a numeral and a verse describing action by the cats on one page, and the drawing on the facing page. The numerals that are decorated to match borders in the paintings are big and easy to read. It is unfortunate that numbers seven and eight are smaller than the others. They are not clearly separated. This interrupts the regular flow of the story.

Cutler's text, although adequate, is typical of one that has been created to accommodate illustrations. The text does not always describe what is shown in the illustrations. With number eight, while the text suggests that a fence will keep out cars and dogs allowing the cats to be safe in their search for bugs and frogs, the illustration shows one of the cats sitting on top of a car. With number three, while the text suggests that three would make a nice family "with grown-ups to watch out for me," the illustration shows three tigers all the same size. Close correlation of text to pictures is one important characteristic of counting books not achieved with this one. The text is more confusing than helpful.

In introducing each number, the text does not always follow the same pattern. On some pages, the text starts with the number. This is effective, as it gives emphasis to the number being introduced. It is unfortunate that Cutler did not try to do this for each number, as the rhythm created by that pattern is lost.

One would have expected that the cat illustrated in the final reversal back to "one" would have been the same cat found at the beginning of the story, since the same decorated "one" is used.

This book may be more appropriate for presenting art to children, or showing children different kinds of cats, than it is for presenting number concepts to young children.

André Gagnon, Regina P.L., Regina, Sask.
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