Windows to the Feline Soul

Because they are nocturnal hunters, cats need to be able to soak up any available bit of light, and so have evolved the ability to open their pupils crazy-wide. Then when the sun is out they go the other way, constricting the openings down to razor-thin slits. The full range conveys mood and attitude very discretely; if you’ve ever had or lived with a feline, you’ve probably become practiced at reading between the lines.

Mike Malbrough’s cat Marigold, in his picture book debut MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE, is a cat with a lot of big feelings — all of which are telegraphed by his delightful eyes.

To the degree that eyes are the window to the soul, Marigold’s soul hangs out in all its glory — which is a huge part of his charm as he struggles with repeated disruptions to his happy-place activity of baking elaborate cakes.


Marigold’s soul is full of passion. But his real world counterparts rarely display the range of emotion that he does: irritation, frustration, joy, panic, delight. He would not be a good poker player.

That Marlbrough has rendered his eyes to look more human than cat-like is a liberty well taken: they and the feelings driving them are totally relatable.

Marigold got me thinking about other great picture book eyes too: I’ve always been in awe of the volumes of unspoken and subconscious goings on in Jon Klassen’s HAT trilogy characters’ understated eyes. If you have a minute, weigh in: what are some of your favorite picture book eyes?

Meanwhile, prepare to meet the fabulous Marigold (and his eyes) in Mike Malbrough‘s MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE (Philomel) on July 18. (Fans of cats and/or baking can follow Marigold on twitter too @TheRealMarigold.)


  1. Marigold Bakes a Cake looks wonderful, thanks for pointing it out. I don’t have them in front of me, but I’m thinking Where the Wild Things Are might be a good example of picture book eyes. 🙂

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