My son’s beloved cat has been missing for a week [update: she came back!] and we are sharing his sadness. So in honor of Shiva, I looked for book cover art with a cat or cats as the primary focus. There are few, I discovered. Dogs all over the place – but few cats.
I was surprised by this, and did an informal assessment of picture book covers with cats. In 2007 the number of picture book covers with cats taking center stage was just about equal to the number of picture books starring dogs (over 30 each). So are cats only for little kids?
Of course Erin Hunter’s Warriors series entries is all about cats. And the only other book I could find with a full on cat face looking out was Bonnie Pemberton’s The Cat Master (Marshall Cavendish 2007) – another fantasy. When I clicked into Bonnie Pemberton’s webpage – there she is holding a cat that, eerily for me, looks a lot like Shiva.
Neil Gaiman’s book of short stories, M is for Magic (HarperCollins 2007) shows a cat silhouetted against the night sky with a crescent moon, Louise Rennison’s latest entry in her Georgia Nicolson series, Love is a Many Trousered Thing (HarperTeen 2007) has a cat on it, but somehow I don’t think there’s much cat in it. And Wendy Lichtman’s Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra (Greenwillow 2007) has a cat… who does math? Really only one of these books is about cats.
And a sample of picture books with cats… The prettiest cat – on Magic Night by Isobelle Carmody (Random House 2006) and power to the cats with CAT POWER! by Daniel Kirk (Hyperion 2007) a book of poems, which comes with a CD of the author singing them (I’ve heard Daniel Kirk sing a few in person – they’re hilarious!).
The question I came away with in the quest for cat covers is why cats don’t draw readers like dogs do. Do we know that they don’t? Cats are for fantasy, but if you want a heartwarming animal story it’s got to be about a dog? Are publishers turning down cat stories, but publishing those written about dogs? I had never noticed the dearth of cats in fiction for older kids and teens. I’ll be paying more attention from here on in.
The Cat Master: Buddy and Jett, two cat brothers (one evil, one good), vie for the title of Cat Master as a retinue of dogs, cats, a possum, a bird, and a lizard help restore a monarch to his rightful throne. (Age 10+)
M is for Magic: Eleven stories that involve strange and fantastical events. (Age 10+)
Love is a Many Trousered Thing: In a series of diary entries, British teenager Georgia Nicolson describes her continuing romantic woes as she is pushed toward a decision about the three boys in her life. (Age 12+)
Do the Math: Tess has always loved math, and she uses mathematical concepts to help her understand things in her life, so she is dismayed to find out how much math–and life–can change in eighth grade. (Age 10+)
Magic Night: Late one night a strange, flittery skittery thing enters the house on a big gust of wind and, although only Hurricane the cat sees it, it leaves enchantment in its wake. (Ages 4-8)
Cat Power: An illustrated collection of eighteen poems written in celebration of cats. (Ages 4-8)