Cheetah Can’t Lose

Bob Shea, Author, Bob Shea, Illustrator
Bob Shea. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-173083-2
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Cheetah is insufferably competitive. When he hears that his two little cat friends are excited about the “big race day, ” he interjects, “The one I always win because I am big and fast and you always lose because you are little and cats?” To teach Cheetah a lesson, the cats devise a series of increasingly humiliating tricks, masked as competitions, that capitalize on Cheetah’s clueless arrogance, weighing him down with heavy “winner shoes,” a vision-obscuring crown, several pies, and an ice cream sundae. Suddenly mortified to see Cheetah robbed of his self-image (an epiphany that gives the title a deeper meaning), the cats name him the winner of the day. Shea, returning to the more textured and stylized characterizations of Race You to Bed (2010), has the cats’ scheme unfold against a crisp white backdrop; propping is minimal, and subtle drop shadows provide the only clues of a stable sense of gravity. The story’s thought-provoking conclusion is equally striking, albeit subtly argued: even a richly deserved comeuppance can go too far, and real friends overlook one another’s foibles. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Mar.)
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