Pretend You’re a Cat (Penguin, 1990) by Jean Marzollo, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Let me start off by saying, this is NOT a quiet book. Pretend You’re a Cat is a book that will really get kids moving, making noise and interacting with each other and the book. It’s a FUN book and it’s the perfect opportunity to be just plain silly. Use it for a group story-time, especially when your audience is feeling a bit antsy and at home when your kids are restless. With rhyming text, the reader is asked to explore their knowledge of a variety of animals – cats, dogs, horses, bees, and even snakes!
Can you bark?
Can you beg?
Can you scratch
With your leg?
Can you fetch?
Can you roll?
Can you dig
In a hole?
With each line, readers can get up and act out the motions with their whole body or use hand gestures to allow for space and body restrictions. Jerry Pinkney’s wonderful watercolor illustrations compare side-by-side the actual animal with the children acting like the animal. The illustrations of the kids offer giggles and inspiration for the audience (I never would have thought to “hatch” out of a cardboard box pretending I was a chick – brilliant!). Some of the kids in the book are even illustrated dressed as the animal, such as a girl in a bee costume or a boy with tiger face paint, to help them get more into character. The last line of each page always asks, What else can you do like [that animal] offering an opening for further creativity and exploration. This book is a great leaping off point for a unit on animal behavior or an activity for an animal-themed birthday party. I especially love the handmade horse masks the kids wear. It would make a great accompanying art project!
Along with our favorite, Head to Toe by Eric Carle, Pretend You’re a Cat is one of those special books that lets kids explore their body’s movements, show off their knowledge of familiar animals, and have fun all at the same time. And a book that can do all that, is pretty special indeed.
At The Carle Bookshop we specialize in backlist picture books. Backlist is bookseller talk for the not-so-new picture books that you often can’t find at other bookstores. We carry the fabulous new books too (make sure to read our weekly Top of the Shelf posts for new book recommendations), but we know what makes us unique are the shelves and shelves of picture books you remember from your childhood or books you read to your own children. Each Friday, we’ll highlight one of these special older titles in case you may have missed it or forgotten about it along the way. Let’s keep the picture book alive and loved, shall we?