From two cats waltzing to twenty cats in a conga line, dancing felines take to the streets, the fire escapes, and the rooftops in this charming concept picture book that is part counting and part introduction to music, dance, and rhythm. The short rhyming text makes it a perfect read-aloud treat, and with vivid illustrations from a breakout DreamWorks animator, readers and listeners alike will be thrilled to see what happens one night on Easy Street when a pair of cats start to groove to the beat.
As music drifts from a shadowy alleyway one Saturday night, Easy Street's cats come out to dance, tangoing, line-dancing, twisting, fox-trotting, rumbaing, polkaing, and congaing to their hearts' content. Dressed to the nines, these felines have a grand time, until irate neighbors can take no more...
An entertaining and somewhat unconventional counting book, one which counts by twos rather than by ones, Cats' Night Out was acclaimed illustrator Jon Klassen's first children's book, and it is for this reason that I sought it out. The artwork is appealing - I love the cats in all of their diverse finery! - and exhibits some of that humor for which Klassen would become known in later books. As a cat-lover, I enjoyed the many scenes of cavorting cats here, and found the rhyming text read very well. Recommended to anyone looking for counting books that are just a little different, as well as to fans of Jon Klassen's work.
Cats that go out to dance at night. I know I've seen this trope done before, but it's hard to remember where. I suppose The Alley Cat's Meow by Kathi Appelt is the best example. Still, considering how graceful and lithe cats tend to be, you'd think it would be a more common occurrence in your average picture book fare. As it stands I think that Cats' Night Out by Caroline Stutson is a rare and wonderful little book, and not just because it involves fancy dance felines. This book has moves. It pops and snaps and works in not just a couple of kitties tripping the light fantastic but also a storyline that counts by twos. Add in an illustrator that, hands down, has created my favorite cat-related images of 2010, and you've got yourself one of heckuva fancy feast.
"From the alley, music drifts. / Shadows sway to a trumpet riff." Light dims as a sun sinks low between two buildings. Into this twilight "Two cats samba, dressed in white, / on the rooftop Saturday night." Then it's four cats doing the boogie, six cats tango, and eight cats look simply marvelous tapping in their pink tuxedos and canvas spats. These terpsichorean tabbies continue to multiply by twos until finally, when "Twenty conga left and right / in splashy florals, plaids, and stripes," the neighbors canst stands it no more! Trying to get some sleep they tell the cats to shut down the dancing, which they do... until the sun sets the next night. Then, "Two cats waltz by neon light / in black half-masks on Sunday night."
I know that if you're a children's librarian like myself then your children's room has counting books galore. Oh, the counting books! Can't take a sharp stick and hit a shelf without stabbing a counting book in the process (which I don't recommend). Now how about picture books that count by twos? Not exactly common, wouldn't you agree? Maybe it's a stretch to say that this book could teach kids their multiplication tables, but at the very least it fills a gap in our collections.
All that aside, Caroline Stutson's rhymes and wordplay alone are delightful. First off, she had to come up with a list of dances that would look good on a page. She went with samba, boogie, tango, tap, line dance, twist, fox-trot, rumba, polka, conga, and waltz. Excellent choices one and all. Next, she had to make them rhyme, scan, and read in an amusing fashion. So the repeated line, "In the city, / windows light. / How many cats / will dance tonight?" sets the pace. On the fun side, we get to hear about how the rumba cats are "twitching silk bottoms through the park" while the tap cats, "tip bowler hats in pink tuxedos, canvas spats." It all begs for some kinda illustrator...
... enter John Klassen. Sporting clientele as varied as the Coraline movie to U2 to the 2010 Winter Olympics, Klassen's an animator by trade. A lot of animators try to cross over into picture books, with varied results. If I'm gonna be frank with you, not many of them fully commit to it. They figure a picture book can't be that different from a storyboard whipped off for an animated sequence, so they'll do the minimum amount of work and leave it at that. I don't get that feeling from Klassen here. First off, the man draws a mean cat. Not "mean" as in "nasty" but "mean" as in "slick". These little digitless guys are all rounded limbs and triangular ears and mouths. Only once in this book are they ever seen walking on all fours. For the most part they're sashaying to the beat of their own particular drums. These cats are totally in the zone. Their eyes only open when the sleep-deprived humans give them how to and what for. The artistic style is evocative as well. These cats dance in a kind of city of the past. All clothes lines strung between apartments and sky-high diner signs. Klassen even works in little hidden number in each dance spread. Kids will then have a chance to try and spot the numbers that lurks over, under, and near the capering cats. I found eighteen to be particularly difficult.
Klassen renders this book digitally, giving the city a gritty feel that I haven't really noticed in a picture book to this extent since the days of Ezra Jack Keats. Keats wasn't afraid to really glorify a city's graffiti and rust. There is no graffiti in this mod little number, but there is a kind of layer of sweet city smog that covers everything. Buildings get lost in a haze of a dying day. Klassen's use of light is also particularly nice. I love the way the sky moves from lighter to darker shades of gray as the night progresses. I adore that shock of greenish light that comes from fox-trotting beneath a plethora of electric bulbs. And then there are the cats themselves. They've such energy and personality for critters so small and simple. I love how one will thrust out its hips while dancing the twist while another might wear kitty-sized lederhosen. And cats doing the Elvis guitar strum arm move? Nothing but awwww.
I suppose that you could probably raise some concerns about the depiction of the individual dances. Can you really dance a polka holding hands in a line? Do tangos actually include some of the moves we're seeing here? Sometimes you find yourself wishing the cats weren't so rigidly tied to the shape of their little bodies, but I don't think anyone can argue that any dance is actually all that wrong. Cats will be cats, after all.
So let's count `em down here. You've got yourself a book that has an artistry to it, both in terms of the wordplay and the pictures themselves. The book has hidden elements that will keep a lot of kids engaged. It rhymes beautifully, it scans like a dream, and it counts by twos, which is rare. All in all, I think you've got yourself a pretty good book. Hand it on over to fans of dance, fans of cats, fans of dancing cats, and fans of cattish dancing. Nobody puts these kitties in a corner.
A good counting book, if you're looking for a well written counting book with rhymes and a fun concept and MOODY illustrations. I liked the tempo of the writing and the, as always, well lit and textured illustrations of Jon Klassen. However I did find it passive that all (ALL) the cats had their eyes closed and their movements were pretty similar and not specific to the dance being described.
I normally don't include these books into my Goodreads count but I'm a homeschooling mommy who appreciates a great counting book for the kiddos. Easy text demonstrating counting by 2's. Plus there cute dancing kitties!
Cats’ Night Out, written by Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Jon Klassen, this is a great book for counting and rhyming. Starting out with two cats walking and dancing through the streets, the ones who start the trend. Then as the storyline goes on the more cats are added. A way a teacher can include this book into the classroom is a small mini lesson in math. This could be used for a literature and math lesson about counting, using this book as a classroom activity where all the kids count together. This is a fun rhyming way students can really get engaged and excited about what they are learning.
I was excited to see that this is by Jon Klassen as I love his artwork style. This was apparently his first book and the illustrations are really charming although they are a different style from his usual. It is a simple counting book, linked to dancing cats, which is bound to be a hit with any animal fans.
I like the muted color scheme, but I’m not a fan of counting books (count the cats on each page) nor do I care what these cats are wearing, so without the rhyme or the counting appealing to me, this was just … meh. Ok. Maybe a small city child would like to imagine the cats out, living and dancing, after dark?
A fun counting book with city cats (and different DANCES) as the main occurrences. I like a book that counts by twos (it's a fun way of teaching kids). Additionally, the illustrations do a wonderful job of capturing the city at night.
The cats are dancing out on Easy Street. What's fun is the detail of their clothing given in the rhyme: dotted Swiss, canvas spats/ bowler hats... Because it is evening, the illustrations are dark with light escaping from drawn window blinds, marquee lights and fountain spotlights.
Great book for kids to practice counting and rhyming. This would be great for a class activity and have the kids read this book. Good for both literature and math. Super cute book I really enjoyed reading.
Yes, it's about cats at night, but the art feels so dark that it's hard to decipher what's going on. Interesting that this is Klassen's first illustrated book. I like the clever way of counting by 2s, which you don't really find in counting picture books.
Ok as a counting book but it would be so much better as a video, the music and dance styles would come across in a much more meaningful way. As it is the kids just get the names of the different dances.