Black Cat & White Cat
Claire Garralon’s Black Cat & White Cat is a short, simple walk through a world of visual contrast. The sturdy 30-page board book carries along the black and white shapes of cats that are truly captivating as Garralon plays with negative space in a way that reveals her graphic design background.
For this simple story, the title really says it all. It is indeed a visit with a black cat and a white cat in a world that is equally black and white. The cats want to meet and play together, but they have trouble seeing each other and quickly tire of playing hide and seek as their only source of entertainment. The answer is predictable: They can only see each other in a place where colors are abundant.
The most striking part of the book is in how it was designed. Garralon does a wonderful job making a stark contrast easy on the eye. As the book’s artwork increases in complexity, artistic balance is still maintained. Whether a basic design, such as on the first page where nothing more than a cutout shape of a black cat is placed on a white background, or a more complicated page where all of the cats and their respective houses are combined, each page is visually stimulating and balanced.
While the illustrations are what will make toddlers gravitate to this book, the story is not quite as strong. The book’s cover may be the culprit showing opposite relationships between the back and front covers. The back cover shows a slightly ominous distance between the cats begging the question: “What is going on between these two cats?” While the front cover, indicated by the red heart set exactly centered between two touching tails, says that these two cats love each other, or are at least very, very good friends.
Not until after the black cat and the white cat and their houses have been introduced do we see that these cats do not actually know each other. Have they seen each other from afar? Have they long dreamed of crossing over the black and white lines that keep them apart? We do not know. We are told that “one day” they “decide to meet.” How does this decision come about? What happened to make these two particular cats from opposite ends of the color spectrum want so much to be together? We are not shown this and the conflict loses its intrigue.
While as adults, we are asked to make a multitude of assumptions for the simple story to work, as youngsters, they won’t care. They won’t even notice. The kids will be committed to the cats and their plight, mesmerized by the black and white hide and seek games, and satisfied by the colorful conclusion.