cover image Top Cat

Top Cat

Lois Ehlert. Harcourt Children's Books, $17 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-201739-2

""Top cat"" is just that--the pet who rules the roost. That is, until a striped kitten arrives on the scene. Angry and jealous at first, the older cat hisses and bites, letting the new arrival know who's boss. But once the cat realizes the kitten is a permanent addition to the household, it makes the best of a difficult situation and becomes mentor to the fluffy newcomer. Lessons ensue: how to leave fur on the couch, chew on the houseplants, chase birds and ""drink from the sink when company's there."" With the knowing tone of a true cat lover, Ehlert's (Hands; Color Zoo) rhymed couplets accurately describe the common--often naughty--habits of house cats, and cat owners will nod in recognition at her scenarios. Visually, Ehlert creates a memorable cat duo in her trademark cut-paper collage style. Using pulpy, textured paper saturated with color, she assembles crisp shapes into forms exuding purr-sonality. On nearly every page she also includes sound effects, printed in small red letters, to accompany the cats' actions (""chomp,"" ""swish,"" ""scritch"") and background noises (birdcalls, clanking silverware, etc.). Children and other feline fans will quickly warm to this spunky story of rivalry and acceptance. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)