cover image Scaredy Cat

Scaredy Cat

Joan Rankin. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80948-4

Both visually and verbally, Rankin's (The Little Cat and the Greedy Old Woman) work calls to mind Gahan Wilson-she shares his genius for conveying and mollifying the free-floating nature of childhood anxiety. Combining delicately textured yet warmly hued watercolors with exaggerated typography that literally magnifies her subject's fears, Rankin masterfully captures the vulnerability of her protagonist, a puffball of a kitten who is frightened of just about everything. The kitten's mother, Mama Meow, tries to offer comfort by explaining that scary things are seldom what they seem: a ""Screaming Sucking Monster"" is just a vacuum cleaner, a ""Giant"" is just the shadow of the cats' kindly owner, Auntie B. But the kitten discovers his own sense of courage only when he delivers a decisive ""bonk"" to an ""eensie-weensie"" spider. That the ""spider"" is actually the nose of Auntie B.'s dog is a comic twist that children are certain to love. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)