September 02, 2013

Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That

by Victoria Allenby
Illustrated by Tara Anderson
Pajama Press
32 pp.
Ages 2-5
September, 2013
Reviewed from unbound galley proofs

The premise behind Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That may appear obvious to the reader.  Nat the Cat is the older, orange tabby in a household in which a small black and white kitten lives.  While Nat the Cat has no animosity for the young feline, he does what many older cats love to do: sleep.  But the little one does what many kittens love to do: play.  No matter what kind of play the kitten gets up to–with balls, in dresser drawers, on a skateboard–Nat the Cat just keeps on sleeping nearby.

But that isn't the story as told. Victoria Allenby's rhyming text takes the reader through a day in the lives of the two cats beginning with their people (only their feet seen) leaving for the day.  Tara Anderson's cheerful cats then engage in their favourite activities, with the text firmly focused on Nat's sleeping.  But everything changes when it's dark and no one is around to watch the two.  A final twist in the story shows that the two felines are destined to live happily together.

As a household which recently introduced a pair of two-month-old brothers to our ten-year-old grey tabby, I know the relentless play in which the little ones engage.  Thank goodness they have each other to chase, to play fight, to clean, to poke and with whom to snuggle.  But when our older cat comes in from outside, they are all over her.  Their actions shout, "Gracie's here! Gracie's here!  Hi, Grace! Wanna play, Gracie?!"  (As much as I despise frequent exclamation marks, our two kittens always speak with this punctuation.  It's a kitten thing.)  Similarly Victoria Allenby affectionately shows us that this story is all about Nat the Cat and the nameless kitten showing their preferences as generational, never based in animosity.  The lighthearted text is more restful when focused on Nat's sleeping predilections, but its overall whimsy is reflected well in the playfulness of Tara Anderson's illustrations.  From the kitten's shenanigans with a star wand or a fish on a string, Nat the Cat contentedly sleeps on (though likely to enlist his people into rubbing his belly, I think, when they're around).

Seems Tara Anderson does a lot of cover art, though her illustrations from Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That and The Stripey Cat (by Norene Smiley, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007) demonstrate her knack for felines. Coupled with Victoria Allenby's simple but zippy rhyming story, Nat the Cat Can Sleep Like That is a delightful read, perfect for getting your own little ones to bed, whether they be human or feline.

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