Splat the Cat My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
by Rob Scotton
HarperCollins (July 2008)
Ages: 3-7 (and up)
“I don’t have any clean socks, Mom. Maybe I should go to school tomorrow instead?” said Splat.
“You don’t wear socks,” said his mom.
“I’m having a bad hair day, Mom. Maybe I should go to school tomorrow instead?” said Splat.
His mom combed his hair. “Purr-fect!” she said.
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
—Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton, p. 5-6.
Splat the Cat is a very funny, engaging picture book with stand-out illustrations and a situation that many kids will relate to. It has expressive, humorous illustrations and text that make the book a winner.
Splat has to go to Cat School for the first time–and he doesn’t want to go. He’s worried, and maybe a bit scared. He tries all sorts of antics to keep from going to school–saying he doesn’t have any clean socks, he’s having a bad hair day, the front door won’t let him out, the gate won’t let go of his fingers–but his mom keeps nudging him along. So Splat puts his pet mouse, Seymour, into his lunchbox, and takes him to school. Things go okay until lunchtime, when Splat opens his lunchbox and all the cats see Seymour the mouse. They chase after Seymour, though Splat tries to stop them. Seymour manages to stop the cats himself. When a small crisis occurs (no milk for snack), Splat gets an idea of how Seymour can help save the day. Together, they change everyone’s mind about mice, making Splat the hero of the day. And Splat discovers that school isn’t such a bad place after all.
Splat the Cat is lively and full of emotion that kids (and adults) will identify with, such as not wanting to get up to face the day, trying to put off something that’s scary, and worrying before a big change. Scotton’s (Russell the Sheep, Russell and the Lost Treasure) text is evocative–“If I hide from the day, maybe it’ll go away, he thought,” while at the same time laced with snappy humor–“It didn’t go away,” and, later, “The lamppost won’t get out of my way, Mom.” Scotton uses both telling and showing to help readers understand what Splat is feeling, and he does this well. The writing is tight, with nothing extraneous. Kids will turn the pages quickly, wanting to find out what happens next.
Splat is a character kids will like and identify with; he’s scared of school and resists change in funny ways, he likes and feels protective of his pet mouse, and he questions things that others take for granted (why do we chase mice?). Kids will also find Splat’s mom reassuring.
Funny names (Splat the Cat, Mrs. Wimpydimple), a few lines of alliteration (“…his tail wiggled wildly with worry”), and Scotton’s wonderful, light-hearted humor make a fun read.
Scotton’s illustrations leap off the page. There are so many things that make them work incredibly well–their texture; their three-dimensional quality; their expressiveness; their fun, whimsical cartoon slant; their emotion; their lively humor; their use of color–all those make Russell and the Lost Treasure stand out from other books. Characters are vivid and appealing, and Scotton has captured personalities well. Good use of shadow helps characters and objects seem more three dimensional, while also adding to the atmosphere. Scotton’s work completely draws me in; he’s a talented illustrator and writer.
Scotton’s illustrations greatly enhance the text, drawing out the emotion and humor even more strongly. Splat, in the opening illustration, is clearly tense and worried, with huge round eyes, a bent-out-of-shape tail, and limbs that stick straight out. In the same illustration, humor is built up through Splat’s fur sticking up all over the place, his feet popping out beneath the covers, and the little mouse tucked in beside him in bed.
Observant readers will enjoy finding all the cat and mouse-lover details in the illustrations, such as Splat’s fish-shaped bedside table, his mouse slippers, his cat books (I Love Fish, C Is for Cat), his fish-bone wallpaper, a little mouse door in the classroom, and much, much more.
Scotton uses a grey palette with bright (and faded) pops of color to make certain objects and characters stand out. The brightest color is almost always with Splat, which draws the eye to him, and Splat himself is a deep black, which also makes him stand out against the various shades of grey in the background. The effect is quite appealing. Scotton changes the layout from page to page, some having a full spread with one scene, some having one illustration on one page and multiple small ones on the facing page, which helps to keep visual interest.
Splat the Cat is a throughly enjoyable and satisfying read, one that brings good feeling. It lets kids know that being scared is okay, that things can work out, that being different is okay, and that we can all behave differently than how we’re expected to–for the better. It will also reassure nervous readers about the first day of school–or any first. Scotton has created another character that kids will come to love–and he’s quickly become one of my favorite authors and illustrators.
You can see more of Scotton’s work at robscotton.com; he has all sorts of neat stuff (including an animation of Russel the Sheep getting drawn before your eyes, a downloadable Russel the Sheep screensaver, and more).