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.)