Between his opening greeting and the bookend closing page on which he stalks away after taking no questions, Gato wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Although he has four legs, two ears, and a long, long tail, the word "cat" does not define him. His identity is his alone to describe and determine. With the help of Danica Novgorodoff's laugh-out-loud illustrations, he takes us on a tour of his adventures, accomplishments, and daily activities that makes mincemeat of our first impressions. He wears a sweater and a leash, so is he a dog? He runs in pastures, so is he a horse? He likes flowers, so is he a bee? He swims, so is he a duck? He has flown in airplanes and ridden in subways, so is he a person? Maybe he's all those things, but what he truly is, he wants us to know, is Gato.
To underline the story's message of empowerment and self-identity, the back cover and backmatter include photos of the real Gato (Winter Miller's cat) doing everything he claims and more. Signs on walls, headlines in newspapers, New Yorker cartoon homages, and sight gags on every page reward repeated readings and will make this book the first one that parents reach for at bedtime.
"I don't feel that 'cat' describes me," a sleek gray tom announces at the start of this mod "memoir," a children's book debut "as told to" playwright Miller by her late pet, Gato. First outlining the numerous ways he's similar to other animals ("Sometimes I eat grass. Maybe I'm a cow?"), Gato goes on to describe having many human-like experiences. Stylish unlined illustrations show the feline driving a taxi in San Francisco, taking the subway in N.Y.C., and sipping a milk cocktail beneath the Hollywood sign. "How do you know I'm not a person?" questions the cool cat, clad in a green track suit and gold chains, before the book concludes with a fitting challenge to labels' utility. Novgorodoff's illustrations aptly portray people of various abilities, ages, cultures, religions, and skin tones, and a final portrait of Gato beneath the framed, cross-stitched adage "You be you" resoundingly drives home Miller's message of acceptance. Ages 3-5. (Mar.)Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.