16 February 2009
Sara Varon is an author who cannot write often enough for me. But at least, if she makes me wait, the end result is always worth it. Her most recent wordless picture book reacquaints us with the city/country combination of Chicken and Cat that we met in, well, Chicken and Cat, way back in 2006. Cat is now settled into city living with Chicken, which means that he has to earn his keep. The industrious, pragmatic Chicken runs a housekeeping service, for which day-dreaming Cat is sadly unsuited. Fortunately, Cat finds his true calling, and it is not incompatible with Chicken's business, which leads to a satisfying conclusion and the possibility of more adventures to come (eventually.) This fantastic book, in which not a single word is uttered, reads as clearly as if every detail was spelled out. I won't say "less is more", because that implies that this is a simple book. Varon has blocked the story so effectively; she keeps the action small when needed and then spreads it across the page--two pages at one point--when the storytelling demands it. While the illustrations have a cartoon quality to them, not a single frame or page is wasted on unnecessary narrative. Chicken and Cat Clean Up is funny, sweet, and a little bit sentimental. It's also my Book of the Week.