All Cats Welcome
All Cats Welcome
Leonard adored his human.
Every morning Leonard said, “Welcome to
a new day. You are the best! I love you!”
His human heard “meow.”
Leonard is a cat who is the physical opposite of James Dean’s elongated and worldly-wise Pete. Leonard is a real marshmallow of a cat, a marmalade cat whose pliable body makes it look like he wants to be hugged. But this does not mean he is in any way lacking personality.
Leonard does indeed love his human but finds spending the days alone in the apartment they share too solitary. A cat can only watch television or find entertainment in juggling granules of cat litter for so long. He notices a calico cat looking out a window of the building opposite and contrives to smuggle himself out to meet him by hitching a ride down to the street in his human’s guitar case.
Mariposa is a Spanish-speaking cat, and, unfortunately, Leonard does not understand Spanish. This situation does not prevent the two from forming a friendship based on a taste for exploring. Their wish to see more of the world that surrounds them turns into a whirlwind of shared adventures. We are clearly in New York City as we see the two cats climbing on the iconic lions outside the central library, watching the skaters on the Rockefeller Centre ice rink, and enjoying a snack at a pretzel cart.
Inevitably, a crisis arises. After one particular day out, Leonard finds himself trapped in Mariposa’s apartment. Mariposa’s human thinks Leonard is lost and takes care of him while preventing him from going outside again to find his way home. Leonard’s human – a hipster musician – fears that his pet is gone for good. He goes out to put up some “Cat Lost” notices at just the same time that Mariposa’s human – a stubble-faced Latino who is wearing a uniform that indicates he works as something like a security guard or a bus driver – goes out to post some “Cat Found” posters. Cats and owners are reunited, all content to be back with the right partner. The humans become friends, too, and the last picture shows two men and two cats relaxing on the couch while watching a good show.
Vancouver writer Nielsen is the author of many books for both younger and older readers, books such as Princess Puffybottom...and Darryl and Tremendous Things. In this picture book, her contribution is a minimal text but an engaging and humourous plot line.
Mineker uses her digitally-rendered illustrations to set the two cats, as well as a host of humans of all ages and races, against a benign urban backdrop dominated by subtle tones of green and brown. With the words taking second place (human-cat communication seems to be a nonstarter, never mind the problem of a foreign language), much of the elaboration of the story is achieved in the pictures. Among the expressive images are those of Leonard and Mariposa imitating the penguins on a trip to the zoo, and the one showing Leonard’s human sadly eyeing the cat’s abandoned breakfast dish as he dolefully spoons up his own Cheerios.
All Cats Welcome is a book for preschool and primary children to examine on their own or when sitting down with an adult as its often wordless spreads will not lend themselves to group sharing. One quibble is with the title All Cats Welcome. I expected to see the story unfold with numerous cats showing up to join in the feline shenanigans rather than just Leonard and Mariposa, charming a pair as they are.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia. She is not a cat person, but she might be convinced to give Leonard house room.