Reviews /

Big Cat

Authored by Jess Racklyeft
Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft
Published by Allen & Unwin

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Big Cat: Catherine is a very good investigator, but is she good enough to track down any Big Cats and what will she do if she finds one?

Big Cat is written from the point of view of a seven-year-old girl called Catherine, who having heard news about Big Cats decides to go and find out. She is the sort of child who likes things just so, such as her research papers organised by colours and then topics and uses her compass to find the most direct route. So, in her usual very organised way, she sets out with provisions for her quest and ‘lure’, leaving tins of tuna around the town, ‘humming in the key of D minor’ as she goes. But after spending time hunting and searching all Catherine could find was ‘two pigeons eating a doughnut’. But just as Catherine is about to return home, it seems that her quest may have been successful after all…

I loved the text in Big Cat with great descriptions such as when Catherine hears about big cats for the first time it is described as ‘like sherbet had been sprinkled on her mind’, which would prompt some really interesting conversations about authorial intent. The mixed media illustrations really add to the story and I especially liked it when the singing bubbles changed from sheet music to the night sky and universe.

The author wrote this book during Covid lockdown and having enjoyed the City of Melbourne’s Art and Heritage collection, she included references to sketches, sculptures and documents in the illustrations. There is a reference at the back for any you have missed. This would be a great idea for children when creating their own books, using local landmarks in the background. I also liked the relationship between the girl and the other character (no spoilers!) and how the girl changed during the journey.

I would recommend this Big Cat as a read aloud to any age, as it has many layers of meaning and would appeal to different audiences in different ways. I would include it in a topic pack in KS1 and lower KS2 about communities, maps and to support cross curricular work in art, geography and design.