Friday 12 May 2023

Big Cat

Big Cat by Jess Racklyeft (Allen and Unwin), Picture Book, ISBN 9 781761 066580

Reviewed by Susan Hancy

Catherine is a neat and organised 7-year-old with a keen attention to detail. She fancies herself as an investigator and decides to search for the mysterious BIG CAT which she has read about. Eventually she finds one, or rather he finds her. They become friends, despite their opposing personalities with BIG CAT being “chaotic” and “lawless”. BIG CAT helps Catherine forget her need for orderliness and detail, and helps her to open her eyes to the world around her.

The illustrations in this book are delightful and my 6-year-old kids had fun searching for the Big Cat hidden in the part of the story when Catherine was more intent on following her process than looking around her. But when I asked them at the end what the point of the story was, they couldn’t tell me. I had to read the explanation in the blurb on the back cover to understand what the author-illustrator was trying to convey. There are aspects of the story which are not built up enough – we’re just told that they happen. It’s not clear what Catherine and Big Cat have in common to start hanging out together. It’s not clear that Catherine didn’t have adventures in her own neighbourhood before meeting Big Cat.

After reading the story through a couple of times and with the help of the blurb and the author’s note, the end pages then made sense and were of interest to me as an adult. (The kids, however, had lost interest by this stage and they’d walked off.) The end pages are describing various sculptures to be found in parks and public places around Melbourne.

Overall, this book is a work of art with a great message about being open to exploring for treasures where you live. However, I feel this message will be lost on many kids and the book is more suited to an appreciative adult.

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