Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Jan Jutte

Although they're not always the most popular of titles, or the best in storytimes, I love Barbara Joosse's collaborations with Jan Jutte.

In this story, Old Robert leads a very ordered, repetitive life. Every night he counts his things and looks at the moon. Until the evening that he sees a dancing cat and, breaking the habits of a lifetime, invites her a board. More theatrical cats follow until he's finally joined by a cat who has no special skills but needs Old Robert.

Joosse's magical text has a poetic rhythm, dotted with surprising rhymes and unusual rhythms. It begs to be read aloud, preferably to a sleepy child tucked into bed. The story has a sleepy refrain that grows with the introduction of each cat:

"As he drifted off to sleep,
he counted the regular things
in their regular place:
Clean socks
a clock
my ship in the slip at the dock.
One dish
one spoon
a wedge of the silver moon...
and a cat
in a wee little hammock."

Nursery rhymes are woven both into the text and the pictures. Jutte's style has loose curves and shaky lines but with strong outlines and color they create a beautifully unified picture of Robert, his cats, and their growing friendship. There's a gentle humor in the art, shown in the cats' antics and Robert's rather bewildered reactions to these animals that are disturbing his normal routines.

Verdict: Not all kids will appreciate Joosse's wonderful language and Jutte's unique art (I've tried some of their books in storytime with meh results) but I love these myself. There's always that one special child who will enjoy something a little different and I'll purchase this one for that child.

ISBN: 9780399254307; Published 2012 by Philomel; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library.

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