The Owl and the Pussycat

ISBN: 0698113675
ISBN 13: 9780698113671
By: Edward Lear Jan Brett

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Children Children's Children's Books Childrens Childrens Books Classics Picture Book Picture Books Poetry To Read

About this book

Edward Lear's nonsense poem about two unlikely sweethearts--an elegant owl and a beautiful cat--has found a perfect match in artist Jan Brett. She traveled to the Caribbean (the land where the Bong-tree grows, perhaps?) to research her illustrations as well as the settings, costume details, plants, and fish native to the area. Readers can follow an illustrated subplot of two yellow fish who also fall in love under the pea-green boat. A charming treatment of a classic children's poem. (Ages 3 to 7)

Reader's Thoughts


Jan Brett's Caribbean-inspired illustrations for the classic Edward Lear poem are teeming with life, and the effect is stunning. The colors, textures, and shapes are a visual treat. Each page also has a different pattern of "straw" border, adorned with a different tropical flower.The pictures overflow with detail, to the point where there's even a sub-story (pardon the pun) involving two yellow fish.I didn't give it the full 5 stars because the way the text is broken up across spreads makes it difficult to read the poem with any kind of flow, and because some of Brett's admittedly gorgeous illustrations could (and perhaps should) have had more of a connection to the text. For one notable example -- there's no pot of honey on the boat, and we never get a look at the money wrapped up in the five-pound note!But there's no denying the beauty of the illustrations, and the Caribbean theme works surprisingly well. This is a great book for anyone -- for newcomers to the splendid silliness of the poem as well as for old fans of the poem who are looking for an edition with fabulous illustrations.


Birds and cats are natural enemies. What happens when they get together against all odds?Stephane Jorisch once more lends his vision to this well-known poem about an ill-matched pair. Shifting the poem’s emphasis to the outlook of those around them and making the owl a bird of high social standing and the cat from the wrong side of the tracks, Jorisch raises Lear’s nonsense poetry to a kind of sublime grandeur. The voyage in a pea-green boat becomes not so much a romantic cruise as a desperate escape from those who censor the improbable love between fowl and feline. Yet the spare but lovely illustrations make the lovers and their surroundings ethereal and whimsical, reminding us of the poem’s original child-like appeal.


‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ is the much loved children’s classic written by Edward Lear and the version I found in my library contains updated illustrations by Louise Voce. It follows the whimsical journey of the eponymous duo as they set to sea, get engaged and search for a ring.The nonsense poetry has some lovely lines although some of the language has certainly dated and could be considered a tad risqué these days (“Oh lovely pussy” etc) however its main audience is unlikely to be aware of any such double entendtres at their age. The book could be used as an example of rhyming poetry although I do find the rhythm structure of some of the verses to be a little awkward.This version is very well illustrated with the kind of pictures that will draw early years children into the story. There may be an underlying theme of acceptance of differences or it may just be a nonsense story, however I feel it has a lot to offer and I’m sure children will enjoy coming up with their own nonsense stories featuring animals that that would make unlikely friends.

Amethyst Travis

A childhood classic

Meg McGregor

An absolutely enchanting version of one of Edward Lear's best-loved children's poem.The owl and the pussycat are in love and sail off together. They meet very interesting characters along the way and decide to get married.A simple story but so beautifully brought to life by Jan Brett. She is, in my opinion, one of the best illustrators ever!


The was one of my favourite stories as a child, as it evokes beautiful images of sailing on the sea in a little boat. The rhythm and metre of the poem is notable, and can be tapped out by the reader. Considered a ‘nonsense poem, some words are inventions of Lear such the adjective ‘runcible’. The illustrations are really lovely, and the title characters are complimenting each other and so devoted that they sail for ‘a year and a day’ to find a ring to get married. They find a ‘piggy wig’ who has a nose ring he will sell, they then find a turkey who will marry them. The characters all wear human clothing and it is very much an anthropomorphic idea. The particularly striking thing about the pictures in the book is how they give the reader a view as a cross-section through the scene (like an aquarium effect) which includes underwater and above-water scenery, giving a view of all the sealife that is rarely seen by us. (1871, 1991)

Carrie Gelson

Just gorgeous.

Jeanne O'Hara

Genre: poetryThis book, a nonsense poem by Edward Lear, is illustrated by Jan Brett. Brett's illustrations bring this colorful poem to life. This was a favorite in our house. My husband loved this poem--his father had read it to him and his siblings when he was a child. When I found this version with the beautiful pictures, it quickly became a nightly ritual. Our children could recite the lines with him, and could recite the lines just from looking at the pictures.I would use this as a read aloud for a poetry unit, as an example of a nonsense poem. I would also include other poems by Lear, especially his limericks. It would also be a nice read aloud for younger grade children, especially at the end of the day to try to wind down to get ready to go home.

Canadian Children's Book Centre

Once again the Kids Can Press Visions in Poetry series offers a stunning book. First published in 1871, The Owl and the Pussycat is one of Edward Lear’s most famous nonsense poems. It is a charming tale of love between two anthropomorphized animals: an owl and a cat. The poem features fantastical creatures such as a “piggy wig,” and made up objects such as the “runcible spoon.” Such creations are ripe for imaginative interpretations and the poem has indeed been illustrated, animated and set to music many different times. No interpretation I have seen is quite as remarkable as this one, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch. Jorisch is a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Illustration and his previous books include Jabberwocky, the first book in the Visions in Poetry series. In pencil, ink and watercolor, with a fine-line style reminiscent of surrealists such as Miro, Jorisch’s illustrations for The Owl and the Pussycat tell the tale of two creatures not only divided by physical differences, but also social differences. This back-story, told in wordless spreads, shows the wealthy owl and his high-ranking family disapproving of the middle-class cat. The solution to their dilemma? Escaping to a utopia across the sea where all strange couples are happily in love, including narwhales and unicorns and mermaids and centaurs. It is the perfect place for two creatures divided by physical and socio-economic differences to marry in peace and dance in the light of the moon. Jorisch’s vision of Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat takes a charmingly absurd poem usually read to younger children and creates a thought-provoking book about acceptance that will resonate with older audiences. It is a must-have for all ages.Reviewed by Kallie George in Canadian Children's Boo NewsWinter 2008 VOL.31 NO.1

Sarah Sophia

Not enough can be said about this book. I know I asked my mother and father to read it to me a hundred times as a child, and read it that many more. A timeless poem of nonesense verse set to beautiful pictures.A lulling and sweet tale of love rolls off the tongue with ease - no trips or stumbles so you and your little one can relax into the evening.Boys and girls will love the story, moms and dads will appreciate it's brevity and the easy cadence.


My son has interesting tastes. Who introduced him to this? Yet, it is what he pulled from the bookshelf at the public library to check out.Yes, this classic is timeless and still nonsensical. Why would a cat and an owl marry? What fun it is to read! Lear delivers one of those memorable lines, "They danced by the light of the moon." Something that brings a smile to everyone.I'm not as impressed with the illustrations that accompany the poem in this edition.****Interesting. As I am going through my son's bookshelf, what did I find? Yuppers, a copy of this book. Who knew we owned our own copy?

Peter Bensen

everyone should read this book. I am interested in what different illustrators have done with this. Kids inherently understand the whimsy and metaphor. I love the fact that two different people can fall in love. you don't both have to love dungeons and dragons, well then again maybe in that case you both do.


Cole brought this book home to show me. This version has the most amazing illustrations. I forgot how thought provoking a children's book can be. We were trying to figure out why the owl and the pussycat wear masks when they are in public and why the other animals in the book wear masks when they are around others of their species. Alone, the owl and the pussycat remove their masks. I want to know if there's a deeper meaning beyond the obvious.You also have to love the fact that when the owl and the pussycat get married in this book, the officiant is holding a big edition of Darwin's The Origin of Species.


A lovely story for early year children which uses a combination of rhyme and repetition to tell the story of the adventures of, and eventual marriage of the owl and the pussy cat.

Henry Martin

I'm giving this one three stars, but mostly because of the huge wow factor. The illustrations are so vivid and the poem so surreal, that the first thing that came to mind is a LSD trip. The kids seem to love it though.

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