Farish, Terry, illus. by Barry Root. The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup. Candlewick, 3. ISBN 978-0763608347 pp. $
This story of an elderly bass fisherman and his companion cat, both disinclined to show the affection they have for one another, in addition to being a superior children’s book about relationships and love, is also an allegory for romantic partnerships.
The two have lived together long enough for him to read her mind. They share fishing trips, truck rides, and relaxing on the porch, watching the birds. He makes disparaging remarks about her lack of contributions to the household, but his actions speak louder than words as he coddles her with potato soup and an electric blanket.
One morning, the cat doesn’t rouse to go fishing, and the old man leaves her behind, but without the cat on the prow of the boat, nothing goes right. And when the cat wakes up alone, she slips away out a window. Days and days pass, and he resigns himself to getting along without her. Cats have nine lives, don’t ya know, and this one comes back to give him what for.
Farish has a lilt to her voice that makes the story flow smoothly and gives it a folklorish air. Her carefully chosen verbs convey worlds with words like howl, loll, and ramble. Root’s soft watercolor illustrations give the Texas tale an “anytime, anywhere” feel – the setting could just as easily be fifty years ago or fifty years from now. Small details, like a toilet labeled junk mail next to the post office box, are fun discoveries, and the illustrator does a marvelous job of fleshing out the man on a fixed income and the overseeing air of the “uppity” cat. Only a potato soup recipe would have made this charming story more perfect.