I thought, when coming to Vladimir Vagin and Frank Asch’s’s Here Comes the Cat! that I was discovering something new — but I was really encountering at last a delightful American-Russian collaboration from twenty five years ago. Vagin and Asch’s book is another example of words and images working together beautifully to tell a story. As in Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat, the story functions as a book-long joke, with the exclamatory titular words and accompanying pictures of agitated mice (in a town in which the chief residents are all mice) seeming to suggest a predictable sort of cat-and-mouse narrative. When the cat finally arrives it does so in a surprising fashion. I won’t spoil the ending, but I loved the last three pictures in particular.
The book is, appropriately, bilingual, with all text given first in English and then in Russian. There isn’t much text altogether — mainly the repeated phrase “here comes the cat” as the little mouse announcing the impending feline runs all through mouse town, giving warning to all the residents. Occasionally, a ladybug in the illustration will say “hello/привет” or the signs on the buildings will be in both languages. For children of a reading/writing-learning age, it’s kind of a neat and approachable way of showing that different countries have different kinds of letters, without the fact becoming distracting.
I should also mention that the illustrations are gorgeous: a cross between a comic style and watercolours in a warm and vivid palette. In the version I found in my local book store, the dust jacket also doubled as a fold-out poster, so children can enjoy Vagin’s art even when they aren’t reading.
17 December 2013 ~ Hamilton
Asch, Frank and Vladimir Vagin. Here Comes the Cat!/Сюда Идет Кот! San Francisco: McSweeny’s, 2011.