They move with such grace and stealth you are hardly aware of them. In our neighborhoods, cities and out in the country if they are seen, it's because they allow it. For thousands of years they have shared their lives with humans. Ancient cultures are known to have worshipped them.
Household cats outnumber dogs but interestingly enough more homes have canines as companions. In his newest title exploring a facet of the animal world Owen Davey (Mad About Monkeys) presents Crazy About Cats (Flying Eye Books, June 1, 2017 UK, Nobrow, September 5, 2017 US). Fascinating facts about those cats living in the wild rather than our homes fill every page.
WHAT ARE CATS?
Cats are a group of mammals known scientifically as felids. Depending on which scientists you ask, there are between 37 to 41 different species. The house cat is very similar to wild cats in a lot of ways.
Following this introduction we are given a general idea of where wild cats live, what they eat and their general personalities. Our wild cats today can be placed in eight groups depending on their origin and how they changed over time. Did you know our house cats probably started to hang around humans when we turned from hunters into farmers? One of their food sources, rodents, liked to snack on grains.
Cats in the wild have amazing physical characteristics designed for specific purposes. Did you know cat whiskers can sense air movement around objects? This helps them to understand the area in which they find themselves. Cat tongues contain
which act like teeth on a comb so they can groom their fur. Speaking of fur, no two cat furs are alike. A wild cat's fur is the key to survival and hunting; it acts as camouflage.
Prepare to be mesmerized by the unique traits of the margay, a smaller cat living in the rainforests of Central and South America and lions of Asia and Africa, the rusty-spotted cat and tigers. These cats are featured more in depth. Margays can walk head first down tree trunks. Perhaps it's their ankles which can rotate 180 degrees which help with this feat. In most lion prides (groups) the females are responsible for the hunting. Rusty-spotted cats are gifted with speed and able to snatch birds in flight. No specie of cat is larger than tigers.
When cats hunt they adapt to capture their prey. Did you know there is a cat that will dive to catch fish? Jaguars will actually float with the current hoping to nab an unsuspecting meal on the river bank. Finding territory and keeping it are essential. Marking it with their scent, fighting those who dare to cross boundaries and roaring are necessary. Not all wild cats roar. (Who knew?)
The loudest roar, the largest canines, the strongest jaw, the longest tail, longest jump, the cat with the most names and the fastest cat awards are shown and explained. In a gorgeous display a human and eight cats are shown to scale across two pages. Toward the close of the title focus shifts to the Pallas' Cat, the Serval, the Sand Cat, the Black-Footed Cat, the Iberian Lynx, the Caracal, the Jaguarundi and the Flat-Headed Cat on two pages titled Weird And Wonderful. Young cats are addressed on two pages. Owen Davey closes with Cat Mythology and Feline Fine; history and the danger wild cats face today. Humans are encroaching on their space.
After reading the two previous books in this series, Mad About Monkeys and Smart About Sharks, I could not wait for Crazy About Cats' publication in the United States. Upon the arrival of a copy from the UK, it was read in a single sitting. Owen Davey writes with a passion for his subject, conveying those points most intriguing to readers.
Our interest is indeed held with the information but Davey moves flawlessly from general overviews to specific species. Each aspect is explained thoroughly. Readers will find his chapter headings humorous; Paws for Thought, Making a Meal of Things, Pride and Predators and Kitten Caboodle. Here are two sample passages.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they have to eat meat in order to get the right nutrients for survival. Cats eat whatever they can get their paws on, including rodents, hares, birds, monkeys, antelopes, zebras, turtles, insects, deer, alligators, and snakes. Many will also hunt smaller species of cat.
Felids can make many different noises, including growling, mewing, yelping, hissing, howling, and even whistling to talk to each other. Lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars are the only cats that are able to roar. They use this long, deep, booming noise over great distances to warn other cats off their turf.
The warm, rich hues of orange, red, yellow, brown, deep forest green and black seen on the book case arre used superbly throughout this title. Owen Davey's cats are ready to roar or at the very least, leap off the page. The title letters are embossed in the textured cover. To the left, on the back, a wild cat (actual name) is ready to pounce on a rodent. The opening and closing endpapers are covered in a bright red-orange. On each the same twelve cats are fully animated. Beneath the text on the title page a Caracal is staring at the reader.
With a page turn we are deep in a jungle as an Indochinese clouded-leopard looks at us on the left; its face taking up the entire page. To the right are the Contents. The signature stylized technique supplied by Davey in his artwork is resplendent.
On each page we are greeted with a full page image or a series of smaller visuals, an explanatory graph, a large labeled illustration of a cat and its physical attributes, an extended picture depicting camouflage, or a large image spanning two pages. Each of these corresponds to the narrative. When appropriate Davey, in smaller print, captions the pictures. Readers can't help but be amazed at the layout and design.
One of my many favorite illustrations is of the margay at night. Deep greens and black designate the time of day. Several stars appear in the sky with a smaller full moon in the distance. The Margay is very close to the reader as if we happened upon it suddenly in a tree. Its body is facing away from us but the head is turned looking right at the reader, large eyes seeking and finding. Foliage frames the cat.
You paws-tively must have a copy (or two) of Crazy About Cats written and illustrated by Owen Davey on your professional bookshelves. And if you realize the more we know about our animal companions the better able we will be to protect them, then you will want a copy on your personal bookshelves too! This is an outstanding book in every respect. There is an Index listing each cat within one of the eight lineages.
To learn more about Owen Davey and his other work please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. Owen Davey maintains Tumblr pages and an Instagram account. You can view interior pages at the publisher's website. Owen Davey is interviewed about this book and his work in general at Just Imagine.
To view other titles selected by bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher.