From the outset, the picture book Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall capitalizes on the age-old competition between the two most popular pets. The illustrations of Cat and Dog on the inside cover look like a family photo album and vacillate between friendly competition and "I gotcha!" moments. In one, Dog has knocked over and landed on Cat while catching a football. In another, readers see the shadow of a cat ready to pounce on a dog's nose poking through a dog door. A few drawings show more friendly adventures, like Cat and Dog making snow sculptures. The back cover reads: "One dog. One cat. One room. One very big problem." All this sets the stage for a story of friendly antagonism.
The book begins when Mr. Button rescues a pup from the animal shelter while his wife, Mrs. Button, is on the other side of town choosing a cat to take home. The first part of the story plays on the traditional depictions of cat and dog as they navigate their shared space. Dog is good-natured but slobby; Cat is the opposite, maintaining a tidy space on its side of the room.
The disagreements between Dog and Cat are many. They fight about the most appropriate way to say hello, what to do for fun, the tastiest treat and the best way to spend an evening. All this squabbling develops the characters and story and also provides material that readers who have pets can relate to. At first I thought the pet stereotypes may have been lost on my 5-year-old daughter, Hadley, especially since she adores both our dog and cat. But she smiled in recognition at Cat clawing anything that moved and Dog sniffing even the most unseemly body odors . And she giggled when the animals addressed the "litter-box issue" (Cat has indoor privileges).
At the end of the book, there's no champion that emerges in the war between the furry pets. In fact, the two adversaries realize they actually kind of like each other, just in time to join forces agains a new threat. The silly pet antics in this story will entertain kids — and amuse any adult who has ever gotten into a cats vs. dogs debate.
Essex Junction, VT
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