cover image Chicken and Cat

Chicken and Cat

Sara Varon, . . Scholastic, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-439-63406-9

In this understated but poignant narrative sequence, whose only words appear on street signs and shops, an ochre-yellow cat comes to live with his friend, a New York City chicken. Cat disembarks at a putty-gray bus depot as Chicken waves hello, and they make their way down a sidewalk of taupe and beige. No words are spoken, but a meaningful dotted line tracks Cat's appraising gaze at some garbage cans, rats and a dog leashed to a No Parking sign. Later, Cat stares out of their walk-up apartment at a monochrome vista of buildings. Readers sense that, despite the animals' warm companionship (they buy ice-cream cones in Central Park and sun themselves at Coney Island), Cat feels alienated in this concrete habitat. Chicken remains something of a hip enigma. But when Chicken spies a daffodil in a hardware store window, the yellow and green flower reflected in Cat's pupils hints at his enchantment, and Chicken half-smiles. The two buy and plant seeds, creating a colorful garden to view from their window. Comic book artist Varon (Sweater Weather ), making her children's book debut, has a way with sweet details, such as Chicken's gentle good-night, Cat's stuffed animal collection and the feline's tail draped like a noodle over the side of his bed. Her quiet characters look equally kitschy and good-natured, and her earthy palette suits the city environment. People of all ages, perhaps especially in the five boroughs, can appreciate this charming account of roommates and community improvement. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)