There Was An Old Lady / What Can Cats Do? and Who’s the Biggest? / How Many Kisses?

There Was An Old Lady
What Can Cats Do?

illustrated by Abner Graboff
Bodleian Children’s Books
Abner Graboff was an American artist and children’s book illustrator, popular especially in the USA in the 1950s, 60s and 70s who died in 1986 and whose work has since almost disappeared from the radar.
Now Bodleian Children’s Books brings some of this work to a new audience and decidedly quirky it is.
His arresting scenes of the animal guzzling old lady show a wicked sense of humour. The sight of her with a mouthful of bird, delicately holding a salt-cellar between thumb and forefinger and with a window through which we can see the contents of her stomach, is deliciously droll …

So too is this chasing scene …

Adults as much as children will enjoy this picture book version of the nonsense song and because of its cumulative nature, it’s a good one for learner readers.
What Can Cats Do? was inspired by Abner’s own cat called Tarzan and apparently his three sons collaborated with their father on the book, carefully observing the creature and reporting what they’d noticed to their dad.
The outcome is a hilarious, first person narrative look at some of the things cats can do that children can’t – using their tongues as combs, for instance,

as well as a few things cats are unable to do such as shave or laugh.

Great fun for beginning readers and of interest to children’s book collectors and students of illustration.

Who’s the Biggest?
How Many Kisses?

Delphine Chedru
Thames & Hudson
In the first title, award winning graphic designer Delphine Chedru takes a playful look at relative size in response to the title question.
The respondents claiming the size title in ways as different as a whisper to a boom, and a gurgle to a sigh, are as disparate as an elephant, a tree, a bear, a hammer, a mountain, a fishbowl, a leaf …

and the faceless human, ‘me’.
How Many Kisses? invites listeners to blow the appropriate number of kisses to who or whatever is indicated in the instruction facing the animal, human or other named objects.

The book follows the expected number sequence from 1 to 10 (with accompanying dots) and then takes seemingly random jumps to 17, 64, 823 and then to ‘millions’. I suspect it would take an exceedingly long time to give the ‘millions of kisses for all the children playing around the world’ on the final spread and the numbers beyond 10 may well be beyond the capability of young children but they’ll most probably enjoy the possibilities offered by such large numbers.
Both books are illustrated with bold bright images using dense flat blocks of contrasting colour and throughout each the text is white lettering on the black background giving an uncluttered, arresting overall appearance to every spread.

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