Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cat the Cat Who Is THAT? (series) by Mo Willems

In the trailer for the upcoming (I think it’s still upcoming, anyway) children’s literature documentary Library of the Early Mind, author Mo Willems says, “One of the great ironies of my life is that I write … I am a writer for … illiterates.”

What an amazing thought, and what a challenge!  The thought had never occurred to me that some children’s authors write for an audience that can’t read.  Adding to the challenge is that not only must the book be engaging to nonreaders, the book must also engage the readers needed to read the story to the nonreaders.  (And my challenge, apparently, is making coherent statements.)

Cat the Cat Who Is THAT? and the subsequent books in the Cat the Cat series do a wonderful job of engaging both nonreaders and their grown-up readers alike.  In the first book, readers are introduced to Cat the Cat and her friends, Mouse the Mouse, Fish the Fish, and Duck the Duck.  The main text is simple (“Cat the Cat, who is that?  It’s Mouse the Mouse.”), but also included are not-so-simple speech bubble greetings (“Hey, dude!” and “A pleasure, as always!”).

After meeting many of Cat the Cat’s friends, someone new is introduced.  “Cat the Cat, who is THAT?”

“Eep!  I have NO idea!” replies Cat the Cat.

“Blarggie!  Blarggie!” says the new character.

Each book follows the same pattern of predictable text and surprise ending.  In Let’s Say HI to Friends Who FLY!, Cat the Cat meets Bee the Bee, Bird the Bird, Bat the Bat, and … Rhino the Rhino?  In What’s Your Sound Hound the Hound?, there are friends who say Woof! and Peep! and Moo!  But what happens when Cat the Cat asks, “What’s your sound, Bunny the Bunny?”

Mo Willems may write for illiterates, but they won’t be illiterate long if their parents and teachers read aloud books like his Cat the Cat series.  Joy and giggles are powerful motivators, and Mo Willems excels in creating books that abound with joy and giggles.  Nonreaders will clearly learn how fun reading can be!

And just because I mentioned it above, here's the trailer for Library of the Early Mind.

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