British author/illustrator Emily Gravett's 10 Cats is a nearly wordless picture book full of bright hues and silly antics. Gravett expertly lets the counting, colors, and cats tell the whole sweetly entertaining story.
In the first spread, we meet the eponymous 10 cats: one snowy-white beaming mother, and nine relatively courteous kittens all sitting in a row against a white background. From "1 white cat" to "10 multicolored cats," though, the scene grows progressively more chaotic--and polychromatic. When Mama dozes off, her offspring begin to get into mischief. A series of red, yellow, and blue paint cans makes a terrific obstacle course and jungle gym. As the kitties clamber around and onto the cans, readers look for "2 black cats"; playtime escalates as first the yellow paint can, then the blue, and finally the red somehow get opened. Now five cats--including Mom--have "red spots," there are "6 cats with yellow dots," and seven of them have "blue blotches."
Gravett (Bear and Hare Share; Cyril and Pat) is brilliant at using white space to paint a witty visual story. Her pencil and watercolor ("with a smidgen of digital fiddle-faddling") artwork is lovely and should appeal to all ages. 10 Cats is more than fun and games, too. In the process of wreaking havoc, the playful kittens help readers learn about colors, patterns, and numbers. Gravett's cheery primary shades (which turn into secondaries as the bedlam advances) bring to mind the zany 1960 classic Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor