A tale of a Very Greedy Cat
by Meilo So
In more than a dozen children’s books over the last decade, Meilo So’s illustrations have displayed a certain swagger of their own. She found the ideal brush strokes for the entire menagerie within ”The Beauty of the Beast,” Jack Prelutsky’s wide-ranging selection of animal poems. In ”The White Swan Express,” she managed to capture the delicious anticipation and joyful beginning involved in adopting a baby girl from China. And in Judy Sierra’s ”Tasty Baby Belly Buttons,” So’s mixture of inks and watercolors perfectly contrasted the spirited determination of a little girl against the bumbling giants of a reworked Japanese folk tale.
With ”Gobble, Gobble, Slip, Slop,” So used rice paper for her watercolor-and-ink work, which adds to the folkloric flavor of the story. The cat is a lovely shade of blue with black squiggles, and there of course is more of this blue with every page. (When the cat lies down after eating the wedding procession, children will have fun detecting the big lumps in his belly.) Spare, telling details — palm trees here, a distant palace there — gradually accumulate until the climax, with a sumptuous fold-out page presenting the veritable village that emerges from the cat’s stomach. In a nice touch, the parrot flies out with a little cake in each claw.
New York Times Review 2004
So’s accomplished use of spare gouache strokes, ink lines and controlled areas of hot color deftly convey texture and action. The eating spreads show the hapless victims disappearing one after another under the cat’s enormous whiskers, each mouthful more outlandish than the last. Only when a couple of digested crabs realize they can cut their way out of the cat’s huge stomach can everyone exit, a scene so sprawling that it requires a gatefold to show the exodus. A thoroughly satisfying cautionary tale that youngsters will clamor to take off the shelf for another look.
The story of a greedy cat is Meilo So’s rendition of an Indian folktale “The Cat and the Parrot.” The greedy and self-confident cat eats everything he comes across. He assures each of his next victims that he can eat them too, only to eat two crabs at the end of the tale who proceed to cut open the cat’s belly and let everyone out. The story is set in India, with illustrations of the Taj Mahal, a traditionally dressed Indian woman, elephants, and a Sultan, but easily transcends borders without losing the moral of the story. The cat’s actions show that greed causes people to put their own desires above anything else, even friendships, but in the end the greedy do not win.
The repetition of gobble, gobble, slip, slop on each page makes the story wonderful for children to join in during the reading. The author uses hot pink lettering for the repeating phrase and cleverly enlarges the text with the cats enlarging belly. Each pages’ vivid illustrations of the current victim also includes a smaller image of what is to come next. The use of a beige background really makes each of the detailed pictures stand out and children will enjoy following the changing expression on the cat’s face.
This enjoyable book has received praise from School Library Journal, stating it is “A tasty addition to folklore or picture-book shelves.” The New York Times Book Review compliments the author/illustrator for her art with “Meilo So does enchantingly unreal paintings. . . . In very few brush strokes, she captures the essence.” Booklist writes that “Much giggling will ensue” when children read this story and look at the fun illustrations.
Posted by Christina