Brendan Wenzel, They All Saw A Cat
Published 2016 by Chronicle Books
Yesterday while I was in the train on my way back home I heard a discussion between three men. They were all in their late 60’s; two were friends and were going home after a bicycle ride in Darling Harbour and the third was a bony person with kind face whom I had first noticed on the platform. He tried to start a conversation with an Asian lady sitting on a bench but she turned her head refusing to answer the questions. I felt sorry for him as he seemed cordial.
The moment he saw the other two men in the train, he greeted and congratulated them on their activity; he showed nostalgia for his youth and his lost strength. The conversation continued in a sentimental tone but I could sense their passion for life. They joked about age and listed the things they were still doing in a very amusing and honest way which made me appreciate them and reminded me of perspective. The lady in the station preferred to stay cautious and reserved while missing an interesting conversation with a nice person. Maybe it was because the man was too loquacious and he looked old and skinny but his energy and his stories definitely transmitted something else.
So, while keeping my eyes in a book but listening to their conversation, I remembered a story I had read to my daughter a few days ago. In simple words, with great illustrations the story transmits a powerful message – perspective is subjective; the world is framed and defined differently for each of us, according to our perspective, which is often contradictory. What some people find beneficial and constructive, others find scary or worthless. The book is called They All Saw A Cat and it is Brendan Wenzel’s solo picture book debut.
Using a cat that walks through the world, Wenzel shows how perspective changes and how the same animal is perceived different by different other creatures. While the child pats the cat and sees a friendly pet in it, the dog sees it weak, a potential prey. The fish in the water sees it distorted and for the mouse the cat is a monster with immense claws and sharp teeth. The flea in the cat’s fur sees its enormousness and the skunk perceives it as a big-headed, black and white creature.
Wenzel chose to illustrate each page in a different style, using pencils, watercolour, charcoal and creating unique visions of the cat. The change of perspective is connected to a wide variety of emotions, from happiness to terror, from curiosity to captivation. The last page will give the cat a turn as it sees its own reflection in the water.
I am sure that the book will also raise many auxiliary questions and consistent googling will be done as there will be an interest in why bees see in pixels or how snakes detect infrared.