Open Book: They All Saw a Cat
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Edited by Ginee Seo and designed by Jennifer Tolo-Pierce
Editor Ginee Seo and designer Jennifer Tolo-Pierce tell us about the triumphs and challenges of making the children’s picture book They All Saw a Cat.
Ginee, could you tell us more about Brendan and how he got the idea for They All Saw a Cat?
Brendan’s inspiration for the book came from his travels around the world. He and his wife had decided to live abroad, and their struggles learning a new language and adapting to a new culture gave them insights into perspective and point of view, as well as the nuances of language. Brendan was also thinking of the next children’s book he wanted to create. He’d illustrated children’s books before, but on this next project he really wanted to write the text and make the pictures. Somehow everything he’d been doing and thinking all these months came out into the sentence: “The cat walked through the world.” And he went on from there and developed the book into what you see now.
I should mention that in this book, every single word of text is deliberate and intentional. It sneaks up on you, because the entire book feels seamless, but when you look at the pieces individually — which we did when we had to copy-edit the text — we realized how carefully constructed the manuscript really is. There is a big difference between “a cat” and “the cat.”
Jen, what were some of the more difficult parts of designing this book?
When Brendan first presented the sketches for this book, we saw the cat as each of the animals saw the cat — with the exception of the worm. How do you represent the perspective of an animal that has no eyes, but “sees” through light- and touch-sensitive organs? In the end, Brendan landed on the brilliant solution of showing how the worm sees the cat through vibrations in the ground. And while the worm previously occupied a sliver of the book spread alongside the bird’s perspective, its final position on its own page opposite the bat — another creature with unique “seeing” mechanisms — shows the various ways in which we all can see the world from our own unique perspective.
Pages from They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel.