I have been wanting to read Cats' Night Out since it was first published in 2010, but it wasn't until the illustrator, Jon Klassen, achieved much deserved fame for I Want My Hat Back that my local library bought a copy of it, despite the fact that it won the Canadian Governor General's Literary Award (Canada's answer to the Caldecott).
Imagine a 1920s urban cat dance party and you will fit right into the world of Caroline Stutson's poetic feline adventure. In fact, I was so taken with the smooth jazz-like rhyme of Stutson's Cats' Night Out that it wasn't until the second reading that I even noticed this was a skip counting book (or maybe I'm just not very observant). Each time we turn the page pairs of cats on nighttime rooftops waltz, tango, foxtrot and samba their way through a impromptu swanky outdoor fête.
Unlike many urban picture book cats, these cats don't have to sneak around. There is no cautious slinking through alley ways and behind trash cans. These cats hang out in locations where you might instead be expecting to see birds: on laundry lines hung from fire escapes, on telephone wires and billboards, skeleton-like scaffolding, in trees and even atop traffic lights. In fact, I couldn't even find a single bird. The city comes off as slightly mysterious, draped in fog and muted colored lights which offer the type of partial illumination you might expect in a smoky speak-easy. Klassen's felines are grooving out and you can see the look on their faces. These are some seriously cool cats.
Sure, this is a great book to introduce counting and music concepts, but what you'll really love is the atmosphere.
Little Kid says: Those cats are dancing! Let's dance, mom!
Read all my reviews of Cat-in-the-City books.
Check out the author's website.
Visit the illustrator's website.
Read Betsy Bird's more extensive review (and see some artwork) at Fuse #8.