The little red cat who ran away and learned his ABC's (the hard way)

Patrick McDonnell, 1956-

Book - 2017

"In this nearly wordless alphabet book, a little red cat runs away and gets caught up in a wild chase that goes everywhere from A to Z and back home again"--

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Picture books
New York : Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers 2017.
Main Author
Patrick McDonnell, 1956- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 21 x 26 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

BACK IN THE DAY, learning letters and numbers must have been a daunting task for emerging readers and counters. A stood for nothing more interesting than apple, ? for ball, C for cat and so on, not to mention all those boring wooden blocks and marbles to be counted. But ever since Dick and Jane were given the old heave-ho and the Cat in the Hat stepped onto our collective mats, with the '60s cultural revolution right behind him, learning letters and numbers has become ever more fun - witness these four clever, imaginative and enticing books. They should tickle the funny bones as well as the brains of little linguists and mini-mathematicians. Featuring two adventurous and yarn-loving felines, a member of the alphabet on an existential journey, and even our own planet's weather patterns and topography, all show us that learning how to read and count need not be rote. Patrick McDonnell's "The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way)" begins with our protagonist, a nameless cat (perhaps a cousin of McDonnell's cat Mooch from his utterly brilliant comic strip, "Mutts"?), waking up, eyeing the open front door and bounding out into a wide world full of adventure (in alphabetical order, of course). A mostly wordless (but not letterless) story unfolds as the cat encounters a hungry alligator, a bear and a chicken, who all give merry chase. Sometimes scribbly and always charming ink lines with splashes of a limited palette of watercolors in this pareddown world help showcase the characters and goings-on. The book's vintage visual vibe harks back to George Herriman's "Krazy Kat" and George McManus's "Bringing Up Father" with a dash of the Fleischer Brothers' animated fluidity - as well as, of course, McDonnell's own aura of gentleness and sincerity. The straight ahead from-left-to-right plot takes a twist when a little princess and her dad, the king, appear and give context to all these shenanigans. A book turn, a potty break and the arrival of a unicorn (and not a letter too soon) bring the story to a close with hugs and valentines all around, as well as a well-deserved snooze. McDonnell's work once again proves to be silly, sweet and even timeless. "ABCs From Space," by the science writer Adam Voiland, is a photographic alphabet book that works through the letters via a satellite's view of our planet. Lush photos of Earth's own formations like volcanos and rivers, as well as weather patterns such as tropical storms and cloud formations, create a natural alphabet primer that could only have been made with the assistance of science and technology. Voiland provides a handy appendix that not only identifies the location of each photograph, but also gives just enough information as to what the natural phenomenon actually is to inspire budding geologists and meteorologists. Included, as well, is a smaller version of each photo with the letter superimposed over it for clarity. Twenty or so years from now, we may point to this book as the launchpad for the careers of astrophysicists and astronauts. In "Little i," by Michael Hall ("Wonderfall," "Frankencrayon"), we are introduced to an intrepid lowercase letter i who initiates an interesting journey to reclaim its itinerant dot. As the story opens, it's a humdrum day for the rank-and-file members of the alphabet, until the unimaginable occurs: Lowercase i's dot falls off and rolls away! What unfolds is a wonderfully clever and ultimately triumphant journey of self-discovery for this spunky little character. The letters communicate by assembling themselves into words (without needing two or more of any letter, of course). His alphabet kin wish little i the best of luck as he sails away unsure of his fate into the unknown, on a question mark (brilliant!). On a mysterious island, he encounters exciting exclamation points, walks through a dark cave glistening with asterisk-shaped gems and pauses at a garden of commas, showcasing Hall's facility for both grammar and graphics. You'd never think you would root so hard for a lowercase vowel. But you will. The art, like the text, is bold, simple and engaging. Brightly colored textured collaged paper makes for the perfect technique to deliver this high-concept tale. Little i may be a mere cutout letter, but his humanity shines through. Our intrepid letter finally catches up with his errant appendage, and what transpires next makes what could have been just an ingenious story into a heartfelt experience. The little letter returns to his alphabetical siblings irrevocably transformed. He's braved a hero's journey. "Counting With Tiny Cat," written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz ("Is There a Dog in This Book?"), is partly a study in counting, and even more the record of a cat's futile pursuit of personal fulfillment and identity through the acquisition of little red balls of yarn. The story opens with the single word "None." Opposite that is Tiny Cat, colorless and alone on a stark white page with an expression suggesting Nietzsche's "if you gaze long enough into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you." With the turn of a page and the appearance of a ball of yarn, Tiny Cat's expression and focus change. On successive pages, the number of balls increases, and so does Tiny Cat's enthusiasm. His situation made me think of Deepak Chopra's concept of self-referral - an identification with your inner self and the feeling of wholeness and peace regardless of the possessions, people or circumstances in your life. Poor Tiny Cat now rampantly engages in unhinged object-referral, the seeming fulfillment of identity through external means: in this case, little red balls of yarn. As the story progresses, Tiny Cat's selfhood expands in direct correlation to the amount of balls he's collected, but when he tries to acquire just one more, his material possessions, as well as his false identity, collapse. The sparse text reads, "Too many." Indeed. The story closes on Tiny Cat, now atop a small pile of balls of yarn, content and satisfied, accompanied by the text, "Enough." But is it? Will it ever be? Or one day will Tiny Cat experience an epiphany and realize that the material world, by its very nature, is constantly in flux, and that as long as we attach our happiness and even our own identity to it, no matter how much we acquire in life, there will always be an undercurrent of insecurity, because it could all disappear at any moment? Of course, maybe Schwarz just made a book about a cat counting little balls of yarn. It works beautifully on that level, too. ? DAN YACCARINO is the author and illustrator of many picture books including, most recently, "Morris Mole."

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 30, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review

A little red cat runs away from home and begins an alphabetical adventure in this (nearly!) wordless picture book. A is an alligator who joins the cat, B is a bear, C a chicken, and D a dragon. After that, the party continues on through different landscapes, and, ultimately, the red cat ends up home and catching some well-deserved z's. Because of its wordless nature, readers can make up their own stories while also hunting for what represents the letter on the page. Although some are obvious, in some illustrations, there may be multiple answers, providing a great opportunity for vocabulary building. (Answers appear at the end.) McDonnell uses a combination of simple lines and a plain background to keep the focus on the action. His is a distinctive style, but the simplicity doesn't take away from the humor, and each character remains distinctive and filled with expression. Best to be shared one-on-one, though the format could inspire young authors and illustrators to try their own journeys through the alphabet.--Linsenmeyer, Erin Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This gloriously fun escapade from McDonnell follows the misadventures of the eponymous red cat, who dashes out the front door of his home, only to be set upon, almost instantly, by an alligator, bear, chicken, and dragon. The book is wordless, other than capital and lowercase letters that correspond to each new character or event, creating a guessing game for readers in the process. In one scene, the pursuers and pursued are slipping and sliding on a patch of ice for I; a page turn, and they're swinging from vines in a jungle. A king and his daughter get involved, parachutes manifest after a tumble off a cliff ("Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo!"), and there's even a bathroom break. It's teeming with visual wit, and McDonnell's cartoons illustrate the emotional dramas of the chase with telegraphic clarity. Ages 3-6. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 1-McDonnell's abecedarian tale takes a small scarlet cat on a breathtaking adventure. The clever tale-wordless except for two signs and one warning shout-begins when the feline notices his home's front door standing open and takes to the hills. He almost immediately comes upon a gape-mouthed Alligator, a climbing Bear, and an agitated Chicken along with a couple of other pursuers of the D and E variety. A chase begins with the cat leading his entourage through a day filled with ice and snow, a jungle, mountain peaks, and a potentially hazardous tumble off a high cliff. Humorous pen, ink, pencil and watercolor illustrations surrounded by copious white space are energetic and highly engaging for readers. The large letters of the alphabet appear near the top of the page and feature both capital and lowercase forms. While most illustrations offer a clear-cut answer to what each letter represents in the sequence, there are a few pages that require some thought; an answer key can be found at the end of the book. -VERDICT A brilliant caper that young learners will want to pore over! A must-purchase.-Maryann H. Owen, Children's Literature Specialist, Mt. Pleasant, WI © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

Waking up on the title page, a little red cat spies the open door and heads out for some fun. But he soon meets up with an alligator, mouth agape, an encounter that sets this wordless--save for the upper-and-lower-case letterforms--alphabet book into Action. The alligator only briefly seems a threat, which also holds true for the dragon that shows up a few letters later; a bear and chicken have joined the cast in the meantime, and the dragon scares an egg out of the chicken. By the time we see the six (yes, including the egg) swinging skillfully through the jungle together, we know they are friends, and the creamy paper and spacious layout add to the feeling of comfort. Expert, minimal, and gentle lines move the eye across each spread and to the next, an attention to forward motion that is equaled in the plot: while the little red cat is having a fine time, he is lost and needs help getting home. (Thank heaven for unicorns.) Touches of wit and plenty of zip recommend this for lap-sit sharing; a key to the letter associations, some more abstract than others, is provided. roger Sutton (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

This (mostly) wordless book opens with the titular little red cat running out of his house toward an alligator with open jaws, and a chase begins. Here and on each page with a distinct, new alphabetical element that follows are printed only the upper- and lowercase initials of the relevant word: "Aa." A bear follows the alligator, followed by a chicken, then a dragon, and an egg, which issues from the startled chicken upon espying the dragon. Cat, alligator, bear, chicken, and egg (which has tiny, pipestem legs) all put on (sun)glasses to avoid the glare of the dragon's fire, ice skate across a frozen pond, swing on vines through a jungle, and so on. Befitting the quirky visual narrative, the letters are a surprising mix: L is for a "lost" poster with the cat's picture on it, R is for a restroom, T is for tired, and W for wave, as the characters bid one another adieu. There's humor in small details and large, as in the double-page spread in which the characters plummet off a cliff and the text screams: "Nnnnnnnn Oooooooo!" Thank goodness they deploy parachutes in the following spread, which requires readers to turn the book 90 degrees for its full effect. McDonnell's drawings use simple lines to generate action, and the background is a white expanse that keeps the focus on the colored line figures. A legend in the back identifies the specific words referenced by the letters. Give this book an F, yes, an F: for fun and funny. (Picture book. 4-7) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.