Cindy: Leave it to Lynn to find a book with a cat AND aliens…two of her favorite subjects! Mr. Wuffles! (Clarion 2013) is not your average cat picture book…but it’s from David Wiesner so you may be way ahead of me on this one.
Mr. Wuffles is bored with all of the new cat toys his owner buys for him. Price tags dangling, they languish as Mr. Wuffles spurns the toys as only a cat can deign to do. But one toy catches his attention finally…but this is no toy. It’s a tiny space ship full of little green aliens. Now Mr. Wuffles is interested and the aliens are buffeted around and nearly incapacitated by the rank cat breath that Mr. Wuffles spews into their ship (another sure sign that Wiesner is a cat owner–in addition to the jacket bio and photo of the real Mr. Wuffles with his owner).
The aliens speak in geometric hieroglyphic language and readers of this nearly wordless book can do some clever sussing out of the possible conversations happening. One delightful one is on the page where the aliens are posing for photos with their new insect friends (ants and ladybugs). I think the photographer is telling the group to, “Say Cheese! and I am even more confident when one of the ladybugs shows up with a Cheez-It cracker and shares it with everyone. The aliens’ ship has broken down and it’s obvious who the engineer is among them when you see his more complicated conversation full of fractions and more complex shapes! What a hoot.
I’ll let Lynn decide how much more of the plot we should share, and meanwhile I’ll keep thinking of Tom and Jerry cartoons and the Borrowers while I flip the pages again. There’s more to discover with each “read.”
Lynn: Well of course I would like a book with cats and aliens but I also have a fondness for wordless picture books. The older members of the focus group and I also adore David Wiesner’s books so it’s a given that this is one of our favorites of the year. I can’t imagine there are many out there who haven’t already read this clever book by now but I wouldn’t want to spoil the experience if you haven’t so I’ll just say that we loved the storyline. Who would have imagined what was behind the baseboards? And let me also say that I’m happy to have solved the mystery of our missing pushpins!
As always Wiesner’s illustrations are wonderfully intriguing, yielding more discoveries each time through. We especially love the changing perspectives, some from a distance, some from close-up, some from inside the shaken little ship, and each revealing something more that enriches the story. Wiesner clearly knows cats well – there is a picture on the flap showing the model for Mr. Wuffles – and he captures perfectly the very essence of cats in these drawings. Every cat owner will laugh at the parade of toys Mr. Wuffles disdains and recognize his intensity of focus on those mysterious things we owners can’t see. I love the message too that through alliances we can all be stronger.
I think Wiesner’s books are best for somewhat older readers. The stories are sophisticated and carried by so many small details and this one is no exception. It often takes a bit of knowledge and experience to understand all the story has to offer. I didn’t get out the Wiesner books for the boys until they were about 5 and they are Wiesner junkies now. At 10, they still pull the books off the shelf frequently and I see them totally engrossed with the illustrations. Silence reigns – thank you Mr. Wiesner!