Dogs and Cats, Part 2

Hondo & FabianPeter McCar­ty doesn’t just include his dog, but also his cat in Hon­do and Fabi­an, a 2003 Calde­cott Hon­or book. This sto­ry describes a day in the life of his pets. Hon­do goes to the beach while Fabi­an stays home, but both have a good time. The soft pen­cil illus­tra­tions of the yel­low Labrador retriev­er and the gray tab­by on the front jack­et cov­er are matched with pho­tographs of the real Hon­do and Fabi­an on the back jack­et flap.

Though not­ed for her books fea­tur­ing cats, Clare Turlay Newberry’s first Calde­cott Hon­or was award­ed in 1939 for Barkis, a sto­ry about a boy who receives the cock­er spaniel pup­py Barkis for his birth­day and doesn’t want to share him with his sis­ter whose cat is named Edward. Newberry’s sub­se­quent hon­or books were April’s Kit­tens in 1941, Marsh­mal­low in 1943, and T‑Bone, the Babysit­ter in 1951. On the web­site cre­at­ed to hon­or her moth­er, her daugh­ter Feli­cia says New­ber­ry began draw­ing cats at the age of two. The New York­er described her as “the paragon of cat por­traitists.” She used her own cats and chil­dren as mod­els for her illus­tra­tions. “My moth­er always drew from life and…all of her draw­ings and sto­ries were based on true events.” Each real­is­tic New­ber­ry cat is dis­tinc­tive, paint­ed in mono­chro­mat­ic black water­col­or with a just a touch of anoth­er hue.

Kitten's First Full MoonKevin Henkes, win­ner of the 2005 Calde­cott medal for Kitten’s First Full Moon, was a great admir­er of Clare Turlay New­ber­ry. His black and gray col­ored pen­cil work achieves a soft look sim­i­lar to Newberry’s water­col­ors, though his kit­ten lacks the details that make Newberry’s cats so real­is­tic. In his Calde­cott Medal accep­tance speech, Henkes stat­ed, “I thought of Kitten’s First Full Moon as a sort of trib­ute to Clare Turlay New­ber­ry all the while I worked on it….And although she isn’t giv­en a name oth­er than Kit­ten, I secret­ly think of my hero­ine as Clare.”

Anoth­er Calde­cott cat is Mr. Wuf­fles!, David Wiesner’s 2014 Calde­cott Hon­or book. The name­sake cat encoun­ters a crew of aliens inside what appears to be a cat toy. Real­is­tic water­col­or and India ink illus­tra­tions depict a curi­ous, deter­mined, and frus­trat­ed cat in pur­suit of the unwit­ting vis­i­tors. Wies­ner incor­po­rates graph­ic nov­el pan­els in this sci­ence fic­tion thriller.

David Wiesner's Mr. Wuffles
illus­tra­tions from Mr. Wuf­fles, copy­right David Wies­ner, pub­lished by Clar­i­on Books, 2013

This device moves the action for­ward and gives read­ers a wide range of per­spec­tives. To cap­ture the cat’s per­spec­tive, Wies­ner fol­lowed his own feline Crick­et around the house with a small video cam­era mount­ed to the end of a pole.

Big Cat, Little CatMuch like Wies­ner, Elisha Coop­er fol­lowed his cats around the apart­ment as he sketched them. And, like Rasch­ka, he want­ed to cap­ture a “par­tic­u­lar emo­tion” through his art in his 2018 Calde­cott Hon­or book Big, Cat, Lit­tle Cat. He and his wife bought their daugh­ters two kit­tens, and one of them died inex­plic­a­bly a year lat­er on Christ­mas Day. The girls were dev­as­tat­ed. They bought a new kit­ten, and Coop­er want­ed to some­how relate their family’s expe­ri­ence as well as con­vey the hope­ful­ness when grief dis­si­pates over time. This pro­vid­ed the inspi­ra­tion for his book, and his spare black and white ink draw­ings com­mu­ni­cate the sim­plic­i­ty of his message.

With heart­felt true sto­ries and mem­o­rable trib­utes to real dogs and cats, these Calde­cott Award illus­tra­tors suc­ceed in cap­ti­vat­ing young read­ers. A vari­ety of art styles reflect the per­son­al­i­ties of the pro­tag­o­nists. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing canine and feline emo­tions through lim­it­ed facial expres­sions and body lan­guage requires skill in a cho­sen medi­um. It also requires an under­stand­ing of ani­mals — and an under­stand­ing of the child audi­ence read­ing and reread­ing Calde­cott Medal and Hon­or pic­ture books.

Pic­ture Books Cited

Coop­er, E. (2017). Big cat, lit­tle cat. New York: Roar­ing Brook Press.

Henkes, K. (2004). Kitten’s first full moon. New York: Greenwillow.

McCar­ty, P. (2002). Hon­do and Fabi­an. New York: Hen­ry Holt.

New­ber­ry, C. T. (1938). Barkis. New York: Harper.

New­ber­ry, C. T. (1940). April’s kit­tens. New York: Harper.

New­ber­ry, C. T. (1942). Marsh­mal­low. New York: Harper.

New­ber­ry, C. T. (1950). T‑Bone, the babysit­ter. New York: Harper.

Wies­ner, D. (2013). Mr. Wuf­fles! New York: Clarion.


Coop­er, E. (2017). The life cycle of a book

Henkes, K. (2005). Calde­cott Medal accep­tance. Horn Book Mag­a­zine, 81, (4), 397 – 402.

Tru­jil­lo, F. N. (2014). New­ber­ry cats! 

Wies­ner, D. (2013). Cre­ative process: Mr. Wuffles!

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