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Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?
by Dan Bar-el
Illustrated by Rae Maté
AGES: 4 to 8
SIZE: 8 x 12
PRICES: $16.95 US, $18.95 CDN
HARDCOVER: 978-1-897476-46-8

CCBC 2012 Pick, Best Books for Kids and Teens!

Time Colonist - 10 Top Reads pick for Fall 2011


Recommended in CCBC’s Summer Travel Fun 2013

“This book expands on the classic nursery rhyme, describing the intrepid adventures of the Pussycat after he leaves London. Join him as he sails down the Seine, ventures to the far north where he sees pods of gray whales and eventually ends up back at home with his partner and friend.”


New York Times

Unbeknownst to many Mother Goose readers, a number of classic rhymes continue way past their well-known opening stanzas (“Old Mother Hubbard” is a particularly fine example), but here, Bar-el creates his own extension of the initial London rendezvous in “Pussycat, Pussycat.” Traveling onward to Paris and Australia and over the midnight seas, the pussycat adventures through imaginative Chagall-style acrylic paintings. “Pussycat, Pussycat, will you stay home? / I always get restless, I always will roam.” Take that, lazy cats.


Quill and Quire, Starred Review

Reviewed by Chelsea Donaldson (from the May 2011 issue)

It’s hard to decide which is more impressive: Rae Maté’s stunning paintings or Dan Bar-el’s exhilarating adaptation of the traditional Mother Goose rhyme. What is certain is that together they manage to breathe new life into a very old poem.

Bar-el has added over 50 rhyming couplets to the well-known rhyme. In his version, the pussycat becomes a world traveler, describing adventures in France, Australia, Canada, the Arctic and many other places. Bar-el’s rhymes scan beautifully and the language is never silly or simplistic. Each new verse challenges young readers to explore—linguistically, geographically, even emotionally. At one point in the poem, Bar-el gets almost mystical:

Pussycat, Pussycat

Where did you sail?

Above the red desert

On old winds that wail.

Pussycat, Pussycat,

What did you hear?

The spirits you dance with

And spirits you fear.

Images like these could be too abstract for some five-year-olds, but Maté's breathtaking oil paintings keep the poem grounded and give parents reading aloud lots to point out and discuss. Maté's Pussycat is a worldly, anthropomorphic gent who walks on two legs, with ancient yellow eyes that seem to look simultaneously outward to the next adventure and inward to his own soul.

Near the end of the travelogue, the interlocutor asks, “Pussycat, Pussycat/ Did you get lost?” to which the cat replies, honestly enough, “I strayed from the path/ At whatever the cost.” This book strays from the path of tradition by rewriting an old classic, but it does so with an infallible inner compass. The result is a tour de force that is sure to become a classic. 



Article about Rae Maté, from Arts Umbrella


Arts Umbrella is proud to have such fantastic team of artist-instructors, and relishes in their accomplishments. Long time Early Learning instructor, Rae Maté is celebrating the release of her latest illustrated book, Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been?, written by Vancouver children's author, storyteller and educator Dan Bar-el. This book is the 4th in a line featuring her wonderful illustrations.

Rae has been inspiring kids at Arts Umbrella for many years. She explains, "I began teaching Preschool art classes at Arts Umbrella in 1993 and have been teaching continuously with the exception 1997-2000, so that's about 15 years. Amazingly, some of my first students are now graduating from high school! They may not remember me, but I hope they still love to draw. The Parent and Me classes are my favourites. Teaching the two and three year olds at Arts Umbrella and their parents is a privilege and a joy."

When asked what she enjoys about having a career in the arts, Rae says, "I love that my art, which I make primarily to challenge and nourish myself, as personal self expression, happens to appeal to and inspire others. People tell me that the paintings and art cards and books bring pleasure, meaning and comfort... and that makes me very happy."

In class, Rae inspires children to create magnificent unique pieces of art. In turn, she draws inspiration from her students. "I am greatly inspired by my 2-3 year students, every one of them inventive, enthusiastic and authentic artists, creating for the sheer pleasure of discovery and the love and magic that art brings," she explains. "It also is very helpful when I am illustrating books for young children to have my audience clearly in mind. The children keep me in touch with my most playful and uninhibited self, and I often bring ideas from the classroom into my studio work and vice-versa."



Parent Central - Review by Deirdre Baker

"The child enjoying this book is most likely to be wholly caught up in Maté’s Chagall-esque colours and dream-like combinations of the surreal and the cozy. Out of a midnight sky, frosty and alien, the benign, watchful cat-face of a cream-coloured moon peers down at the tabby cat and the real centre of the story — the girl who is the listener to his tales.

Indigo, ruby, emerald green and deep, warm yellows glow from within black outlines, like stained glass shot through with light. Expansive land, river and seascapes are made fanciful by Maté’s mysterious but affable cat-person, who tramps the Australian bush, shows up in a safari outfit near the Egyptian pyramids and paddles a kayak around gargantuan ice floes.

This cat is both a lone, indefatigable night prowler and the warm, snuggling pet in a little girl’s bedroom. The world he inhabits is as full of comfy armchairs and children’s toys as it is of the “strange and peculiar,” of the thousand unsolved mysteries of the pyramids and of the haunting whistles of a train moaning through the night."

CM Magazine

4 out of 4 stars

Readers familiar with the original classic Mother Goose rhyme are in for a real treat with a wonderful revamping. In fact, it is a complete redesign of the old treasured refrain, "Pussycat, Pussycat, where have you been?" This adaptation is in the clever and creative hands of an award-winning children's author, storyteller and educator, Dan Bar-el. The results are charming, whimsical rhyming couplets that explore the continuing adventures of this sassy cat, which, in its original form, were written as:

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? I've been to London to visit the Queen. Pussycat, Puss cat what did you there ? I frightened a little Mouse under the chair. Meoww

On Nursery Rhymes -- Lyrics, Origins and History (www.rhymes.org.uk), we find that this simple refrain dates back to the 16th century in Tudor England where a cat which belonged to one of Queen Elizabeth's ladies in waiting, roamed freely about Windsor Castle. The story goes that one day the cat brushed against the Queen's foot as it ran beneath the throne, frightening her. She then decreed that the "cat could wander about the throne room, on condition it kept it free of mice." 

     Enter Dan Bar-el, and off we go to explore with Pussycat, as he sails down the Seine. Along the way, he experiences laughter, a stage show, strange animals, street performers, a visit to the North Pole, and a pod grey whales. These are just a few of the encounters of this stylish cat as we delve deeper into his feelings and discover his fears. sorrows, and joys. The additions of the many rhyming couplets to the old refrain are indeed welcomed and absolutely exude charm.

Pussycat, Pussycat,
What touched your heart?
A train whistle moaning 
Its way through the dark

Pussycat, Pussycat,
What stopped your sorrow?
I sang to the stars
As I rode to tomorrow.

     This delightful tale of adventure, travel, and friendship is vividly brought to life by Rae Maté, with amazing, colourful and imaginative illustrations rendered in acrylic paint. There is so much for little ones to see and for parents to point out. The sometimes challenging text is well served by these splendid images and make for a potent and unforgettable combination. This edition proves once again that Nursery rhymes are a fun way to teach children of all ages about language, music and the fun of rhymes.


Pussycat, Pussycat, Where Have You Been? Resource Links Review, Excellent Rating

Dan Bar-el has taken Pussycat from the traditional rhyme far beyond London and the Queen’s chair in a delightful romp around the world. The rich language is embellished with the beautiful and equally rich illustrations by Rae Mate. Printed on heavy, glossy paper this picture book is high quality in all ways.

Pussycat’s narrative is shared with a young girl in her nightgown, as she quizzes him on his adventures following the scaring of the mouse. His journey takes him from France to Australia to the frozen North to Egypt, to the Canadian Prairies and beyond.

“Pussycat, Pussycat, did you get lost?

I strayed from the path at whatever the cost.

Pussycat, Pussycat, but were you all right?

The kindness of strangers gave warmth to my night.”

The accompanying illustration shows Pussycat sipping chocolate around a campfire with an elderly woman, a young child and an alligator! Charming.

The ending is most satisfying, with Pussycat claiming he “always will roam” but inviting the young girl, now in her coat and cap, to “travel with me, my partner, my friend.” The illustration shows them arm in arm, under a full moon, with a mouse perched on the girl’s beret.

Dan Bar-el’s gift as a storyteller is evident throughout. The rhythm and rhyme of this story will make it a wonderful read aloud or pleasurable for a child to read on their own. Rae Mate’s considerable artistic skill shines. The whimsical illustrations enhance the story and will capture the attention of the young non-reader who could explore Pussycat’s adventures without the text. This book will also be enjoyed by children who like to memorize poems.

This wonderful book, likely to be become a classic, is highly recommended.


Thematic Links: Stories in Verse; Adapted Nursery Rhymes; Circular Journeys; Friendship


Review of Rae Mate's Art Show in the Jewish Independent 

An artist needs a particular mindset to illustrate children’s books. Rae Maté does it beautifully. Her inner child must be lurking just beneath the surface, smiling mischievously at grownups, laughing at their inability to see the magic just out of reach. “I haven’t forgotten how to be two or three years old,” she admitted to the Independent. “I’m excited by the same things they are.”


Canadian Children's Book News- 


Dan Bar-el’s creative extension of the Mother Goose rhyme is a lyrical journey perfectly accompanied by Rae Maté’s dreamy paintings. As the illustrations show, a young girl is asking Pussycat to recount tales of his travels which the pair re-enact by puppet show under the light of a whiskery moon. This framing works magically. Young readers see, through the pair's imagination, Pussycat’s adventures in France, the far north, Egypt and beyond, his encounters with zany characters and kind strangers, and also his isolation, fear and loneliness.

The exploration of the child’s voice adds an additional layer to this well-loved rhyme. While the tale is Pussycat’s, it is through the child’s questions that the story is discovered. That the young girl was so much in his thoughts while Pussycat was away is also deep and affirming. She asks, “Pussycat, Pussycat, / What kept you brave?” and he fittingly answers, “To know you were waiting / Beyond the next wave.”

Bar-el and Maté have imbued this book with the timeless spirit of a Mother Goose rhyme: Maté’s artwork, rich in colour and texture, depicts vintage steam trains and oil lanterns; Bar-el’s language is beautiful, with loving attention given to natural scansion and rhyme, enhancing the flow of the story; even the artful illustration of the initial letters lends to the book’s classic appeal. My children, aged four through ten, are convinced this is how the rhyme has always been. I’m happy and convinced that this is the way they will always recall it.