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If Not for the Cat (Horn Book Fanfare List (Awards)) Hardcover – September 21, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-4–Each of the 17 haiku in this collection explores the essence of an animal, the words forming a sort of riddle answered in Rand's accompanying double-page illustration. The title poem, "If not for the cat/And the scarcity of cheese,/I could be content," features a mouse looking at a bewhiskered nose through a hole; a jellyfish drifts across a spread in "Boneless, translucent,/We undulate, undulate,/Gelatinously." Prelutsky shows his command of word choice through a minimalist form that is perfectly matched by Rand's control of his mixed-media artwork to create a wonderful celebration of the art of haiku. This book, like George Shannon's Spring (Greenwillow, 1996) and Dawnine Spivak's Grass Sandals (Atheneum, 1997), shows the continuity and vitality of this ancient poetic form.–Kathleen Whalin, York Public Library, ME
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

PreS-Gr. 3. Quiet in tone and, like traditional haiku, taking inspiration from the natural world, these 17 poems express the points of view of individual animals, from mouse to moth, from skunk to crow. Each turn of the page brings a new verse, illustrated with a variety of media but primarily brushed ink and watercolors. The wide, double-page spreads offer plenty of space for illustrations, but Rand approaches the compositions with admirable subtlety and restraint in the use of color and detail, and he creates a series of dramatic scenes. In the title verse, a little mouse cowers on the dark side of his mouse hole while a cat's nose, mouth, and whiskers appear in his lighted doorway. White letters on the black page proclaim, "If not for the cat, / And the scarcity of cheese, / I could be content." The best of these poems play with sounds and words in an illuminating, satisfying manner, and even the more prosaic have the requisite 17 syllables, which teachers will appreciate. The appealing, accessible haiku verses and the large-scale, beautiful artwork will make this the go-to book for haiku to read aloud in classrooms. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: NP (What's this?)
  • Series: Horn Book Fanfare List (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; First Edition edition (September 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060596775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060596774
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
For years and years now a curse has been floating over Jack Prelutsky's head. The curse reads, and I am quoting here, "Thou shalt make no silly poem books without being compared, first and foremost, to Shel Silverstein at all times". Mr. Prelutsky has labored under this curse for years, finding his own way to express himself but undoubtedly gritting his teeth whenever someone, however innocently, says, "It's good. But I think I like 'Where the Sidewalk Ends' better". View now Jack Prelutsky's greatest hour. In this, quite possibly the best book of haiku for children, he has teamed with remarkable watercolor artist Ted Rand to bring us one of the most beautiful, most well-written, and most deeply moving books of poetry to hit the market in a long long time. I don't usually bite my cheek in frustration when a book is not awarded a Caldecott Honor after publication, but I do so now (painfully) in spades.

The book contains seventeen sweet and simple haikus. The titular poem reads, "If not for the cat / And the scarcity of cheese / I could be content". This sort of sets the tone for the rest of the book. For once, Prelutsky isn't afraid to bring out the big guns. He throws out large words that kids will learn simply by reading the poems in the context in which they occur. Says a jellyfish of deep blue, "Boneless, translucent / We undulate, undulate, / Gelatinously". The humor of these poems is of a slower sweeter nature than you'll find in books like, "Baby Uggs Are Hatching". A particularly Yoda-like sloth comments with baby on its chest, "I am slow I am / Slowest of the slow I am / In my tree I am". I better stop copying down these poems word for word, but you get the idea. They're all remarkably well-written and some carry a slight philosophical bent.
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Format: Library Binding
A visual feast.

A literary delight.

(You'll feel for the mouse.)

Haiku is simple enough in theory: it's three lines, each with five syllables, seven and then five again. Here, poet Prelutsky and illustrator Rand show how the simple can be made sublime in the hands of true masters.

A third-grade friend, having looked at the book and heard the 'rules' of Haiku, immediately composed a poem to her pet hamster:

We scurry like mice.

We run from nighttime to dawn.

We are soft and cute.

(I'd mention that my friends are now e-mailing each other in Haiku, but if you hadn't read the book, you wouldn't understand...)

This book is a treasure for children of all ages.

And would someone PLEASE get that poor mouse some cheese!
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Format: Hardcover
This anthology of poetry includes a variety of haiku poems by Jack Prelutsky. The poems share a common theme of creatures including both animals and insects. An index at the back of the book details each creature's name.

This book was extremely interesting to me because I enjoy writing Haiku, but I know it is often disliked by young students because it is often quite symbolic in nature. In contrast, Prelutsky's collection is somehow insightful enough to keep adults intrigued, yet simple enough for children to enjoy. I think Prelutsky's work in this collection might inspire some young writers to try Haiku poetry.

In the classroom, I might use this book as a morning mystery reading...reading one poem aloud each day and encouraging students to guess the animal being represented. Then I would reveal the animal at the end of the day. I would also encourage students to find the patterns in the words and attempt to write their own animal Haikus.
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Format: Hardcover
Jack Prelutsky, If Not for the Cat (Greenwillow, 2004)

The problem with If Not for the Cat, Jack Prelutsky's marvelous book of guess-the-animal senryu, is that there's not nearly enough of it. It runs forty pages, which is about right for the preschool set, but couldn't we have done one senryu and awesome illustration per page, instead of giving each a two-page spread? Yes, this is very good stuff indeed, introducing toddlers not only to animals but to (pretty well-crafted) poetry as well. Sequel, please! *** 1/2
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not only is the haiku poetry in this book captivating, but the pictures are beautiful too. I've used this book in various classrooms and read the poem and asked the students to identify the animal being described. It is a good activity to use in a classroom setting and not only exposes the class to haiku, it also enriches their imagination.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I use this book when I am teaching forms of poetry and when I am teaching the Word Choice element of the 6+1 traits of writing. Beautiful illustrations and the haikus are absolutely lovely.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love using this book with my students of all ages. There is a great lesson on Writing Fix.org which outlines everything you need to do for a perfect writing activity. My students love writing haiku riddles for each other and ask to write more each week!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a teacher and I bought this book for my 1st graders. I thought it would be great to teach inferences (and it is), but the vocabulary is very advanced. I like the book, I I still plan to use it, but I will have to do a lot of scaffolding and switching around of the words to help my ELLs and other students.
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