In all the animal kingdom, it is the cats’ regal grace, subtle sophistication, and great depth of personality that put them in a league entirely their own. Just why are cats so special?

It is the Peek.
It is the Poke.
It is the Dance
on feet of smoke.

It is the Slink.
It is the Sneak
on velvet toes
stalking the Squeak.

Explore the many facets of our feline friends with Tony Johnston’s lyrical poetry and award winner Wendell Minor’s lush exquisite paintings. Here is an insider’s view of a cat’s life for cat lovers of all ages.



As stylish and sleek as the cats themselves, this appealing book should capture the attention of feline fanciers young and old. The title does not refer to a question addressed to a cat, but instead poses the question “What is a cat?” The poet, who never mentions the word “cat,” offers a lyrical list of the animal’s behavior and actions. “It is the Spy/licking its chin/waiting all day/watching the Fin,” for instance, is accompanied by a painting of the back of a gray furry head observing a fish bowl. ...throughout the volume Minor’s cats are irresistible and Johnston’s compact rhymes often astonishingly apt. Both together capture the essence of the mysterious creature we call cat.


Fascination, admiration, respect, and love for the inscrutable cat are evident on every page of this beautifully designed tribute. The spare verses provide just enough detail to inspire the richly detailed paintings that capture not only individual hairs and whiskers, but also the varied mods, actions, and personalities of these very real cats. The lines “It is the Claw./It is the Hook./It is the Now-how-do-I-look? are paired with, “It is the Pounce./It is the Roar/In a snowstorm/it is the Snore,” accompanied by an almost life-sized, touchable orange cat, sprawled on its back on a couch, toes curled and tail curved, eyes closed, smiling, while an imperturbable snow cat outside the window stares straight ahead through the falling snow. Truly a celebration of the grace and complexity of the cat, each luminous painting will appeal to both children and adults.


In this feline-lovers’ delight, lyrical poetry pairs with shining paintings to describe just what makes a cat a cat. Johnston weaves together a series of evocative images, using imagination-stirring verses to describe the mystical wonders, uncanny abilities, changing moods, and simultaneously exasperating and endearing characteristics of these mysterious animals....Minor’s luminous full-and double-page illustrations help readers to visualize these complicated creatures, as various cats stalk, spring, stretch, and snooze across the pages.
Backgrounds for these well-composed paintings alternate between vivid outdoor scenes, cozy interiors, and crisp white space. In one picture, a rotund orange tabby reclines in a wooden bucket, an all-knowing look on its face, while the curve of its winking eye reflects the shape of a sliver of moon hanging in the night sky. In another, a gray-and-white cat naps with one graceful paw placed delicately over a toy mouse, managing to look serene yet ready to spring into action. This is a verbal and visual feast for anyone who has ever been captivated by the self-confident gaze of an amber- or green-colored eye.

From ALA BOOKLIST - starred review

The author of It’s About Dogs (2000) illustrated by Ted Rand, turns to a less scrutable creature in this picture book, comprising a series of abstract verses: “It is the Claw./It is the Hook./It is the Now-how-do-I-look? are paired with, “It is the Pounce./It is the Roar/In a snowstorm/it is the snore....” Using his own cats as well as a host of other feline models, well-known artist Minor presents a series of large, realistic feline portraits, most of which are painted in such fine, furry detail that children (and adults who read with and to them) will have trouble resisting the urge to stroke the pictures. Cat fanciers are going to fight over this, and although Johnston’s verbal invention falters a bit in one verse (“It is the Wise/it is the Foof./Now it is here./Now it is poof!”), her otherwise evocative, unforced language and imagery will have children who enjoy god poetry leaping into the fray as well. Great stuff for both reading aloud and reading alone.


Sophisticated, graceful, cuddly and playful cats inspired the rhymes in Cat, What is That? Illustrations show cats hard at work sprucing up, on the prowl for mice, lapping up luscious treats, observing the world and napping. Children and adults will enjoy the wonders and pleasures of this book.

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