THIS STORY IS NOT ABOUT A KITTEN
I was perusing Twitter and found some of the most useful advice I have received as a picture book author. It was a retweet from Jennifer March Soloway, originally posted by Jennifer Laughran. Both are wonderful Literary Agents in the picture book world. If you are on Twitter, I highly recommend you give them both a follow. The advice was to find some of your favorite recent picture books and, essentially, analyze them. I always spend quality time in the picture book section. However, I had not dug to the depth that was suggested. I looked online and could not find any write-ups on current picture books that went into the information suggested, but if you know of any please send them my way! I thought it would be beneficial to other aspiring kid-lit writers if I shared my findings and perspective. If you have read the books I share and have additional insight, please chime in.
I decided to start my picture book analysis journey with THIS STORY IS NOT ABOUT A KITTEN, written by Randall de Sève and illustrated by Carson Ellis. Regarding the illustrations I have not been approved to share them on my site yet, so please take the time to purchase: https://bit.ly/3L3FIS4 or check out the book yourself. You will not be disappointed. I was approved to use the cover, which is adorable.
The author: Randall de Sève – http://www.randalldeseve.com/ is a bestselling picture book author. She has been known to say that her story ideas come from real-life experiences and then develop further within her imagination. This story came about in her very own neighborhood in Brooklyn. She is represented by Steven Malk at Writers House.
The illustrator: Carson Ellis https://www.carsonellis.com/ - On the other coast, in Portland, Carson created amazing illustrations for this story. She is known for her bestselling picture books Home and Du Iz Tak? She is also a Caldecott Honoree. She is represented by Steven Malk at Writers House.
The Publisher: Random House Studio
Word count: About 365 words, 40 pages.
Categories: Children’s Social Themes and Children’s Animals
Age Range: 4-8
Published Date: Oct 4, 2022
Price: The Hardcover is $18.99
Summary: A neighborhood comes together to help a kitten without a home.
Title Analysis: THIS STORY IS NOT ABOUT A KITTEN. Clever title. I’d like to reference Simon Sinek, he has given a talk that I find very relatable to this title. Your mind is incapable of thinking in the negative. Simon gives the example by stating “Don’t think of an elephant.” Randall cleverly does the same thing in this title stating it is not about the kitten. Naturally, the child will focus on the kitten who is central to the neighborhood coming together. In addition, any kitten lover will be drawn to the cover as the eyes of the little cat pull you in. This has more to do with the cover illustration than the title, but they tie into each other nicely.
Story Analysis: Randall tapped into her creative mind as well as her real-life experience when writing this story. She was able to connect with adults and children who remember the popular English nursery rhyme “This Is The House That Jack Built.” Drawing from that historical piece she was able to bring it into a new light and make it her own. While this story is NOT about the kitten, the kitten is central to the story and the child who loves animals will not be disappointed.
Seeing something helpless and in need pulls on the emotional heartstrings of the neighborhood and brings people together. The positive message this story sends is that strangers can come together and work as a team in times of need.
The repetition is also nice and adds to the enjoyment of the story. I think children always enjoy a bit of repetition in a book. This makes it flow really well and adds a lyrical vibe to the story as a whole.
Illustration Analysis: Ellis did a wonderful job of displaying diversity and emotions within the story. The illustrations added more layers drawing the reader to invest in the well-being of the kitten and the relationships of the neighbors and understanding where each person was coming from. The vibrant colors and attention to detail did not disappoint my young story listeners and readers. I personally enjoyed the illustration in which all the hands were shown and we could see the differences in ages just from the hands.
Activities Ideas: I always like to come up with an activity to do along with a story. Here are some thoughts I had to go along with this book.
- Draw your own kitten
- Bring donations for a local shelter
- Pass a paper around and everyone draw one part for a kitten