cover image Cat Tale

Cat Tale

Michael Hall. Greenwillow, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-191516-1

Three cats—euphoniously named Lillian, Tilly, and William J.—try to keep up with some fast-moving wordplay as Hall (Perfect Square) explores verbal puns. The sturdy text is reinforced by blocky illustrations that picture each scene clearly (a necessity given the potential for confusion) and leavened with plenty of humor. Each line ends with a solid, gratifying thump: “They flee a steer./ They steer a plane./ They plane a board./ They board a train.” A huge, blue steer sends the cats dashing into a blobby purple plane. “They plane a board” explains the verb “to plane” with vivid red curls of wood; two cats do carpentry while the third cat talks to a duck in a cap, who turns out to be the driver of the train they board. Even when things break down (“They use a box to steer a steer? No, no, no!”) the puns are never stilted, and Hall’s simple forms and bright colors only complement the verses’ compelling rhythm. It’s a wacky and thought-provoking read-aloud, one that’s likely to become a favorite. Ages 2–5. Agent: Anna Olswanger, Liza Dawson Associates. (Sept.)