Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Back when Nicholas was eight I would search for books on social skills for him at ebay. This is how I stumbled upon Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag? and was drawn to the book by the appealing cover artwork.
The book consists of thirty pages, each written and illustrated by a student who was in the fourth grade at Newcastle Avenue Elementary School in Reseda, California. The first page along with the back cover profiles the students in three rows along with their teacher, Ms. Lizette Madruga and Ms. Carlyn Taggart. The very last page is a compilation of three photographs showing groups of the children in aprons adorning paintbrushes putting the touches on the book, Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag?
The phrases inside Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag? are as follows:
Donít put your foot in your mouth.
I have ants in my pants.
Youíre driving me up the wall.
Who let the cat out of the bag?
Youíre barking up the wrong tree?
Donít spill the beans.
Cut it out.
He woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
Iím all ears.
Donít count your chickens before they hatch.
The cat got your tongue.
Foodís on me.
They have hearts of gold.
She thinks money grows on trees.
She took the words right out of my mouth.
Lend me a hand.
She has a green thumb.
Donít rain on my parade.
Donít cry over spilt milk.
You paid an arm and a leg.
Youíre pulling my leg.
Youíre in the hot seat.
Zip your lips.
Letís hit the road.
Itís raining cats and dogs.
Each page has a collage of colors that are smeared, dotted and textured. I was disappointed not to find any mention of how the illustrations took place and the process. It would have been nice to know how the order of the phrases was chosen and how they went about picking the phrases. I feel that would have added to the charm of the book, Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag? by sharing with the reader the steps taken to make the book.
It does appear that some or maybe all of the illustrations started with pencil drawings. The faces on many of the illustrations are descriptive with a range of emotions showcased. Each page has a square border in a color that coincides with the image. These shades include purple, green, pink, yellow, orange and blue. The phrase is displayed in a font style text above the border. Located below the border at the bottom of each page is the meaning of each sentence in the same black font, each is prefaced with the word meaning.
Many of the students signed their name within their illustration. My son and I spent time looking over each page to find the signature, but some were hard to locate. The styles of the childrenís illustrations vary from a full colored border to many that have open white space with limited details. There were quite a few amusing phrases too, like the phrase of words taken out of her mouth showed I love school.
There are a few that were hard to decipher, such as a boy with a mean look to his face sitting on a hot seat in front of a television set. To the right was a green darkened window with the meaning stating "Youíre in trouble". I had a hard time trying to explain that one to my son because the kid did not look like he was doing anything that would get him in trouble.
The phrase "Zip your lips." shows a boy with brown hair standing up and his open mouth portraying zipped lips. The meaning states, "Be quiet and close your mouth", but the background is hard to decipher if the child is outside or indoors due to the limited scenery. The illustrations for donít cry over spilt milk is based at the bottom of the page leaving most of the background untouched and boring. The foot in your mouth phrase shows colorful images that are similar to the dress the girl is wearing, with her large yellow foot being the same color as her hair.
The couch potatoes illustration is very nicely done plus the girl who is all ears, although she is outside with a blue, purple and pink background and many green trees. The boy who woke up on the wrong side of the bed shows a bouncing boy enjoying himself, but this image does not accurately portray the meaning of waking up grouchy and grumpy.
The funniest illustration to me is "foodís on me". The girl is at a green table with a purplish cat holding out a paw. The girl is wearing a hat with pigtails and big pink shoes. Her face is showing sideways but should be looking the other way. This page shows a lot of imagination and focus on the phrase. Her hat has food items on top of it and showcases the color images nicely.
The illustration on the cut it out page does not show a person, just many square images in a colorful fashion and scissors in the middle. This shows the cutting was stopped before completing. My favorites are a tie with hearts of gold and time flies. The hearts of gold are brightly displayed on two individuals over their clothing and the sun has a pair of red wings flying around.
The images that seemed to capture the phrases and meaning accurately were those done by female students. Nicholas likes the two brown potatoes sitting on the couch the best. Reading through Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag? sparked interesting dialogue for Nicholas son as he would start coming up with phrases he did not see listed in the book. We have them listed in a notebook.
It is a shame that Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag? is not easy to find for purchase because it is really a good start on helping kids with autism to learn through the visualization of the phrase with the actual meaning on the same page. This would be perfect for therapists and classrooms to have on hand when the need arises.
"Kids Are Authors is an annual competition open to Grades K-8 and is designed to encourage students to use their reading, writing, and artistic skills to create their own books. Under the guidance of a project coordinator, children work in teams of three or more students to write and illustrate their own book. The creative process of working in teams helps provide a natural environment to practice editing, teamwork, and communication skills necessary for future success. All students involved get a sense of pride and accomplishment from submitting the team project."
"In addition to becoming published authors, winners' schools receive $2,000 in merchandise from the Scholastic Book Fairs Instructional Resources Catalog and 100 copies of the finished books. The winning students will receive a medal, a framed certificate, and a copy of the published book at an official award ceremony held at their school in the fall."
Unfortunately the Elementary schools my children attend do not hold book fairs. To receive information about the Kids Are Authors program, copy and paste this link to fill out the form at the teacherís guide to book fairs section at the scholastic website. Another interesting link to check out is an A-Z collection of idioms.
Readers of Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag? will delight in the diagrams presented by other children and perhaps instill a desire to try to do a similar project of writing and/or illustrating a book. Who Let The Cat Out Of The Bag? is a great reference tool to keep handy for your personal library of reading materials.
This article was previously published on Epinions.
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