Big Cat, Little Cat

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Big Cat, Little Cat Book Poster Image
Strikingly designed tale of cat-kitten friendship.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows cat activities and habits (eating, sleeping, cleaning themselves and each other, using the litter box). Shows how someone older can teach younger ones how to do things. Shows growing up from little to big, even to the size of your teacher. Touches on how it feels to lose a friend, or a pet. 

Positive Messages

When you lose someone you love, it's hard and you feel sad. If you lose an animal, getting a new one can help you feel better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The big white cat is kind and patient with the little black cat and teaches him everything he needs to know. He plays with him even though he's younger. The cats go wild and crazy sometimes and nap other times, because they need their rest. Little cat models how it feels to lose a friend: It's hard and makes you sad. The little black cat grows up and becomes a kind, patient teacher for the new little white cat.

Violence & Scariness

Death is not mentioned in the text, but when the old white cat goes away and doesn't come back, readers can assume he died.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elisha Cooper's Big Cat, Little Cat, a sweet story of feline friendship and loss, won a 2018 Caldecott Honor. The little, young black cat comes to live in the home where the big, adult white one has lived alone. They quickly become friends, and the little cat grows to be bigger than the big cat. The white one gets older and appears to have died (all it says is "one day he had to go ... and he didn't come back"), and the black one is sad. Then one day a little white one comes, and the big black one shows him the ropes, mirroring the lessons the big cat had taught him. With graphically bold art and lots of heart, it's a spare story that conveys the cycle of life in simple terms kids can grasp.

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What's the story?

In BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT, an adult white cat lives alone until one day a small black cat comes. "The cat showed the new cat what to do. When to eat, when to drink, where to go [pictured with litter box], how to be, when to rest." The days go by and the little cat grows to the same size as the big one, and they romp and play for years. "Until one day the older cat got older and he had to go ... and he didn't come back." The black cat is sad. "Until the day a new cat came." Now the big black cat teaches the new little white cat all the things the big white cat had taught him when he arrived. The cycle of friendship and caring continues.

Is it any good?

This graphically stunning picture book uses just two colors -- black and white -- to tell a sweet story of love, loss, and growing up. Kids will relate to learning how things are done from older kids and adults as they strive to do all the stuff they can do. And families coping with the loss of a pet will find comfort in a message of resilience in Big Cat, Little Cat that still acknowledges how hard that kind of loss can be. The cute drawings of cats playing, "working," snuggling, and sleeping, are irresistible. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all that the little ones learn from the big ones in Big Cat, Little Cat. Do you have an older brother, sister, cousin, or friend who has taught you how to do things? How does it feel when an older kid pays attention to you? 

  • What do you think of having all the pictures just use black and white? Would the book be as interesting if it was in full color? Why do you think the author-artist chose to use just black and white?

  • Have you ever had a pet who died? How did that feel? Did you get a new pet soon after? 

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