Written and Illustrated by Kate Jane Neal
Published by Simon and Schuster ISBN: 978-1-4711-6854-3
Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster
The startling red of the soft back cover is stamped with a bold central white heart surrounded by smaller red metallic foil hearts. A simple figure occupies the white heart this is Cat who gazes up at the book title.
When we get into the pages there is something of the greeting cards design about this book. The simplicity of the images showing the interactions between Pip and Cat lend themselves really well to this form of communication. The illustrations show Pip and Cat in various poses as they make us aware of the power of language. Author Kate Jane Neal is new to the world of illustration. Her ink lines and use of colour are direct, free and lively.
Spoken language is considered in this book. The simple claim that words have power is true and the story such as it is focuses on positive reaffirmation of this and is cautionary about its opposite. The inclusive tone is friendly but slightly paternalistic. It is a children book so this might be expected however it does advocate a hopeful message.
The recurring heart motif drives home the main purpose of the narrative. Though it is common knowledge that our emotions affect our brains more than our hearts we still accept this symbolic form for expressing feelings. Along with this repeating heart motif there are splash pages that add texture and depth to the illustrations. This is a level of sophistication not appreciated when you first engage with the book.
The emotional and spiritual resonances in the story are all encapsulated in the refrain “The little bit inside of you that makes you, you!” Growing up I always believed “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” I think we had it wrong in the past, and given the fact that bullies emerge from the most unlikely places these days, this picture book is very much needed.