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If Not for the Cat    by Jack Prelutsky & Ted Rand order for
If Not for the Cat
by Jack Prelutsky
Order:  USA  Can
Greenwillow, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In this charming picture book, Jack Prelutsky presents seventeen animal haiku, in the form of poetic riddles, whose answers are the creatures shown in Ted Rand's lovely illustrations.

Of course, the first is a mouse ... 'If not for the cat, / And the scarcity of cheese, / I could be content.' The riddling verses are succinct and very well done - jellyfish 'undulate, undulate, / Gelatinously.' (Isn't that a sonorous mouthful?) The illustrations are glorious, especially the flowering plant beside the hummingbird we see 'sing with my wings' and the beaver ('teeth are my tools') emerging from a lake strewn with water lilies. The otter enjoys 'Bliss in the water.' The eagle has 'telescope eyes', and the skunk gives fair warning, 'When I raise my tail'.

Read the riddles aloud and ask kids to guess from the words what animal is described, before revealing its picture. If Not for the Cat is great fun and also a good place to start learning about animals and their habitats, and also about haiku.

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