cover image Me and My Cat?

Me and My Cat?

Satoshi Kitamura. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-34906-6

Although not as unpredictable as his hard-boiled Sheep in Wolves' Clothing, this latest by Kitamura spotlights an offbeat sense of humor and a flair for comic-book layout. At first, it appears as though a dark-haired boy, Nicholas, narrates the story, while his yellow cat sits quietly in the foreground. But at breakfast, Nicholas buries his head in a cat-food dish until his mother ""carr[ies] me off to catch the school bus. I had gone... but I was still here."" Only then does Nicholas realize that he and his cat have exchanged physical identities. The ""real"" Nicholas, in the cat's body, spends the day accidentally toppling furniture and battling the tomcats next door. ""Life was as complicated and tough as it was for humans,"" he discovers. Kitamura devotes several amusing spreads to imagining how a cat would inhabit a human body and vice versa. He contains these chaotic scenes in a tense, tightly controlled black-ink line and tints them with lush midnight-violet, fern-green and golden-ochre watercolors. ""An old lady in a pointed hat"" solves the dilemma in a conventional way, but the tale provides entertainment--particularly on the repetitive panels in which the boy wears a cat's impenetrable, miffed expression. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)