Here Comes the Cat!
Vladimir Vagin and Frank Asch
Had originally seen this book at a library sale and been put off by the illustration style... A few days later, we ended up checking the Weston Woods version out from the library, and of course my son flipped for it. I backpedaled and was able to get the same copy that I'd originally dissed. Needless to say, the book has grown on me.
The story follows the lives of a veritable village of mice as they are warned and prepare for the imminent arrival of a cat. From what I can tell, the book was a collaboration between two artists, one in Russia and one in America... who worked together by flying sketches back and forth across the ocean. Except for a few exclamations, there are no words except for the repeated phrase....
HERE COMES THE CAT!
.... in both English and Russian.
This book was written just before the turning point of the Cold War, and I imagine it was an artistic effort to draw the two countries together. The story echoes themes of prejudice -- being afraid of something because you don't understand it -- mirroring many of the animosities that were blanketed by the iron curtain.
Interestingly enough, Professor Thomas Wartenberg of the Department of Philosophy at Mount Holyoke College has a site that contains reading guides to open up philosophical discussion for kids on select book titles, and the questions he asks on Here Comes the Cat are really deep. What a great resource for reading aloud to children.
I'm glad I gave this one a second look because it is a really top notch. Even though we've only read it aloud a few times, the tale has become an integral part of my son's pretend play lexicon. He lines his toy animals up and has them one by one calling out "HERE COMES THE CAT" and then cowering in fear when his imaginary friend arrives. AWESOME!