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Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been? by D. Bar-el & R. Maté

Bar-el, Dan, and Rae Maté. Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been? Vancouver: Simply Read Books, 2011. Print.

In this superbly illustrated book, the pussycat of the classic nursery rhyme continues from his royal visit in London on to more distant and exotic adventures. He sails down the Seine in France, visits with “one of a kind” animals in Australia, kayaks with a pod of whales in the North, and discovers the mysteries of the Egyptian pyramids.  North American geography is subtly evoked as he meets a fisherman in a coastal community and takes shelter from a Prairie thunderstorm in a “soft golden” wheat field.

Many elements of the book convey nostalgia and the simple joys of childhood. It features a storybook-like font and extra-large capital letters at the beginning of each stanza. The hand-painted illustrations are magnificent and have a vintage fairy-tale like appeal. However, the complexity of the ideas conveyed in the simple rhyme scheme hints at more mature life lessons and ideas.

For example, when the Pussycat encounters a parade of pageant performers, his owner asks, “Did you join in?” he responds with: “If life is a circus/ Why wait to begin?”  The sense of adventure is tempered with reality; he is, on occasion, fearful, sad, or in need of assistance in his travels. He always reveals to the reader what helped him through those times: “What stopped your sorrow?” “I sang to the stars as I rode to tomorrow”. He also explains that he was able to take the “road less travelled” due to the generosity of fellow travelers:

‘…Did you get lost?’
‘I strayed from the path
At whatever the cost.’
‘Pussycat, Pussycat
But were you alright?’
‘The kindness of strangers
Gave warmth to my night.’

Pussycat also talks about missing loved ones back home, in this case his owner. The adventure concludes with him inviting her to join him on his next series of imaginary adventures: “Come travel with me/ My partner, my friend.” According to the publisher’s website, this book is recommended for ages to 4-8.  It would be an excellent addition to any home, library, or school book collection.

Highly recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Kim Frail

Kim is a Public Services Librarian at the H.T. Coutts Education Library at the University of Alberta. Children’s literature is a big part of her world at work and at home. She also enjoys gardening, renovating and keeping up with her two-year old.