Maya & Cat

This picturebook by Caroline Magerl is a beautiful object and both an aural and visual treat. Having the illustrations carry much of the story has allowed Magerl to pare back the text, which has a wonderfully spare, poetic flow to it, enhanced by the generous design and placing of the words on the page. The opening is worth quoting ‘On a roof, / as wet as a seal, / as grey as a puddle, / Cat was rumbling, / a rumbly purr.’

Her accomplished line and wash (i.e. watercolour) illustrations are loose, poised, yet full of emotion; think Ronald Searle meets Quentin Blake and Edward Ardizzone. The palette is muted, the settings realistic (and intruigingly wet for an Australian picturebook maker!), but with something or someone on virtually every page listing, somewhat off-balace, giving a tremendous sense of energy and an element of wacky mystery.

All this lifts a simple story of Maya and the cat that she tries to entice into her house, into something exuberant and really special. At one point she tries food, and again I can’t resist quoting ‘So Maya sent out a boatful of fish, / under a tiny tin sail…’ and the illustration shows she has put out an open sardine tin, complete with curled up, sail-like lid. When Cat refuses to come in Maya realises it wants her to help it find its home, and satisfyingly, when they eventually find the owners on a boat, Cat gives Maya a sea-sick kitten to take home. Purrfect!