Never judge a book by its cover?

posted in: Jenni Desmond | 8

It’s been a while since I fell in love at first sight, but that’s precisely what happened when I saw the front cover of Red Cat, Blue Cat by debut author/illustrator Jenni Desmond.

The cats’ gorgeously grumpy expressions, the boldness of the image as a whole, the delicate detailing of the birds in flight – it made me catch my breath, nod and smile.

And on turning the pages my sense of excitement and delight only grew. Red Cat, Blue Cat (published later this month in the UK) turns out not only to be beautiful but also witty, original, and jam-packed with joie de vivre; a gentle and humorous exploration of identity, envy and friendship.

Red Cat is fast and bouncy whilst Blue Cat is clever and creative. They share a house but the only other thing they have in common is a secret wish: to be more like the other. Try as they might, all they end up doing is fighting and getting in a big mess. Finally it dawns on them that not only is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery, but happiness also comes more easily if your comfortable with the skin you’re in. A friendship is born based on acceptance and appreciation of difference.

Desmond tells a great story, full of giggles (regular readers of my blog should be delighted to know there are more pants on heads!) as well as having a more thoughtful side. Her illustrations are clean, fresh and eyecatching. Definitely a talent I hope to see much more of in the future.

Inspired by the terraced housing on the title page of Red Cat, Blue Cat we set about creating our own street scene with cats.

We each had a bunch of plain white postcards onto which we drew house fronts. We use origami paper for the roof tiles and added telegraph poles and wires made from barbecue skewers and yarn, and chimney smoke made from toy stuffing fibre.

M added TV aerials made from paper clips and passport photo booth images of us looking out of windows.

I particularly like the bird nesting in the chimney of the house below, and the bicycle in front on the road.

Whilst making our street collage we listened to:

  • Cat Quartet by James Gill and Frank Young – out of tune but definitely made us smile:
  • Boy Who Turned Into A Cat by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
  • Cat in a Bathysphere by The Hipwaders

  • Other activities which would work well alongside Red Cat, Blue Cat include:

  • Colour collecting (each cat collects and eats things of the other cat’s colour in an attempt to change colour) – using this idea from Crafts’n’Things for Children you could go an a hunt for red and blue treasures. Older kids might enjoy a similar photo project, like this one described by Family Blog Tips.
  • Making your own cat softies – I like this one from Sew Delicious and this one from Hoogli Art.
  • Eating food which makes your tongue change colour – you could try powerade, blackjacks, beetroot or M&Ms. Go on, you know you want the excuse to play and pull silly faces with your kids in front of a mirror…

  • So what’s the last book you judged by its cover? Was it one you didn’t read because of the way it looked, or one you bought straight off because the front cover spoke to you?

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