1 2 3 Cats /A B C Cats by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Isabella Kung


1 2 3 Cats /A B C Cats by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Isabella Kung, Candlewick Press, 9781536209952, 9781536209945, 2021

Format: Board book

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or Starred review) 5

Genre:  Concept — Numerals; Concept — Alphabet

What did you like about the book? In 1 2 3 Cats, Lesléa Newman (author of Pride display standbys Heather Has Two Mommies and Sparkle Boy) introduces readers to the first twelve cardinal numbers, since “cats come better by the dozen”. Across thirteen double-page spreads, Newman and illustrator Isabella Kung illuminate the gregarious aspect of feline disposition; “Cat Number Three” on the verso “purrs loud as a roar / when he takes a nap with Cat Number Four” on the recto. Along with counting, readers are introduced to concepts of sharing (toys and food) and courtesy; clever Cat Number Nine “opens the door for Cat Number Ten”. In A B C Cats, readers have a chance to revel in the more solitary— and mischievous—  inclinations of cats: the alphabet cats get tangled up in yarn, stick their heads in cheese puff bags, leave “wet tracks” all over the letter M, sharpen claws on letter J, and “gobble grub”.
In both titles, Newman’s rhyming verse scampers about pleasingly, just free enough in the meter to match the antics of Kung’s lively little cats. At that, on vowel pages in A B C Cats, Newman leans into a conflict between the natural stress and the (more-or-less-) expected pattern of stressed syllables: “Grouchy cat with twitchy tail / Hefty cat who tips the scale / Inquisitive cat with sixtoed paws / Joyful cat with sharpened claws”. The verse could easily falter here, but it doesn’t— instead, the three stresses of “six-toed paws” force a pause, emphasizing the deviation in both form (metrical variation) and content (feline polydactyly).
Kung’s cats are radiant, with lively lines, bright pink tongues and paws, and brighter eyes. The cats range in coat color from variegated blacks and greys, to a rich soda-pop palette of cola browns, grape purples, a thoroughly orange orange, and champagne golds and blushes. They also show great variation in patterning: calico, leopard-spotted, mackerel-marked, tabby, tuxedo… Kung painted more than 120 cats for these titles, and in a virtual open studio in February, revealed that each cat was painted twice— once on hot- and once on cold-press watercolor paper. The final illustrations are digital composites of Kung’s favorite sections of each painting; the paintings are executed with black sumi ink, and then digitally colorized. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? Nope!

To whom would you recommend this book? Caregivers and educators of toddlers and preschoolers, or young English language learners, cat lovers of all ages

Who should buy this book? Public libraries; day-care and early childhood education centers

Where would you shelve it ? Board books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Zeb Wimsatt, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 26 May 2021

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Alphabet, Board book, Cats, Isabella King, Leslea Newman, Numbers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.