Name of Book: They All Saw a Cat
Author: Brenda Wenzel
Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: 2016
Audience: 6-8 years
Summary: In simple, rhythmic prose Brendan Wenzel’s picture book follows a cat walking through the world. As the cat walks it is seen by other creatures such as a child, a dog, and a fox. The illustrations of the cat change with each turn of the page, based on the perspective of the creature. To the child, the cat is cuddly and friendly, but to the fox, the cat is large and plumb. The cat eventually comes to a body of water, sees it’s reflection and the reader is invited to ponder, “imagine what it saw?”
Literary elements at work in the story: The story’s refrain, “The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws,” guides the reader. As each creature sees the cat, the creature sees “A CAT.” This simple literary difference is significant, as is made evident in the illustrations. The illustrations by the author are rendered from almost anything. Wenzel used colored pencils, oil pastels, paint, Magic Marker, and number 2 pencils, among other mediums.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The illustrations of the cat vary from perspective to perspective, revealing how much our own perspectives affect how we see others. Each creature’s perspective of the cat seems to be reflective of age-old stereotypes. For example, to the dog the cat is a lanky and slick, suggesting the cat is sneaky. We do the same when we look at others, we see a Muslim; we see an African-American; we see an old person; we see a young person; etc. Along with this is a long line of baggage. Historical and traditional stereotypes are associated with . . . fill in the blank, and it affects how we see others.
Theological Conversation Partners: How we see others and ourselves are critical, theological questions worth pondering. The Genesis writer reminds us that each of us is created in the image of God (1:27). We have all been in situations where we have been perceived as the cat, based on the viewers stereotypes. Or we have been like the creatures passing judgment on a cat, based on our own stereotypes. Yet, Jesus gives shows us through his interactions with people that if we get to know those who are different from us, we will see them as who they are, not for the stereotype we see.
Faith Talk Questions: Why do you think each picture of the cat was so different?
- Use the crayons/markers to draw a picture of God on a blank piece of paper.
- As you look at each other’s drawings, do you notice any differences? Why do you think there are such differences?
- Draw a picture of how you see yourself. These should include images that describe how you understand yourself. When you are finished, turn it over.
- Choose a partner, and draw a picture of how you see your partner. When you are finished, share the drawing with each other and compare that drawing with your own. Do you see any differences?
- Are differences a good thing? Why or why not?
- Read Luke 19:1-10. Even though everyone else does not want to have lunch with Zacchaeus, Jesus does? Are there children at your school who sit alone for lunch? How does that make you feel?
- When the cat looks in the water, at the end of the book, what do you think it sees?
This review is written by Rev. Jason C. Stanley, 2007 graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary. Jason is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, currently serving as the Coordinator for Church Revitalization on the Elizabeth River District in the Virginia Conference. He is husband to Rev. Megan Saucier and dad to Jayne Carter. He blogs at jasoncstanley.com.
They All Saw a Cat by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.