One Rooster + Two Cats = A Counterintuitive Children’s Book

Off to see the worldRecently, one of my five-year-old twins came home from the school library with Eric Carle’s Rooster’s Off to See the World (1972) and instructions from her teacher to make predictions about the story while reading it.

This beautifully illustrated story begins with a lonely rooster who decides to see the world. During his travels, he meets two cats.

Before I could even ask my daughters what they thought would happen next, one of them exclaimed, “Are those cats going to eat that rooster?”

“The rooster wouldn’t get to see much of the world then, would he?”

“But cats eat birds,” she insisted.

“That’s true, but I don’t think these cats are hungry.”

So, we continued with the story, practicing addition as groups of animals join the journey, including three frogs, four turtles, and five fish.

“Fish? Don’t cats eat fish, too?”

“I don’t think these cats are hungry,” I replied, only to find:

Wheres our dinner 5

Aren’t they looking at their dinner?!

But there’s no massacre. Instead, these tired, hungry, cold, scared, and homesick animals disband, providing my daughters with an opportunity to practice their subtraction.

That the animals give up on their journey is a potentially problematic message for those parents who want to teach their children, as a three star review of this book from Amazon explains, “to be adventurous, take reasonable risks, never give up on their dreams,and explore the amazing world we’ve been given to enjoy.”

I happen to think it’s not so bad to teach kids to turn back in the face of hunger, fear, and the elements. If those animals had kept walking–without a plan and without provisions–those cats might have had no choice but to resort to their natural instincts. Finally. 😉

Two Cats from Carles Roosters Off To See The World


  1. I like that your daughter is more world-aware than this book seems to be. It reminds me of The Poky Little Puppy book, which I had remembered from my childhood as being just fun, but when I reread it recently, I realized it showed dogs eating chocolate, which can be deadly for dogs. It feels a little condescending, not to mention just plain sloppy, when books personify animals in ways that don’t make sense for those animals.

    1. I don’t think I’ve read The Poky Little Puppy. It’s too bad that it showed dogs eating chocolate. I wonder how many children familiar with that book tried to give their dogs “a treat” only to find out how sick it would make them!

    1. Yeah, any child who is familiar with cats will know that it’s unlikely that a cat will be friends with a bird. This reminds me of one of your wonderful posts.

  2. I remember this book!! and I think you are right – we all need to understand when it’s good to give up on something and when to carry on. Thanks for sharing your experiences and for reminding me of a long ago book

    1. I’m glad my post brought back memories for you! I had several Eric Carle books when I was a kid, but I don’t remember reading this one. My daughter picked it out because she liked the illustrations.

  3. I have read this book with my kids more than a few times. In my opinion, it is a miss as far as Eric Carle books go. I’d put it on par with his “pancakes, pancakes”, in terms of meaningful messages in children’s books. The illustrations and simple text are great, as usual for Carle. But the plot is pretty weak. Then again, my kids like it, and they like “pancakes” as well. Maybe it’s the kind of story line that resonates with them because it echoes their own thought processes? “I’m going to see the world! Eh, I’m hungry, I’m going home now.” seems like something they’d say and do.

    I guess my storytime preferences lean more towards Leo Lionni, or Jan Brett. (Although Carle’s “a house for hermit crab” has a beautiful message.)

    1. Yeah, the plot is very weak. I like the book’s focus on addition and subtraction, and the illustrations are great, but it’s not a great story. “A House for Hermit Crab” is my favorite of the Eric Carle books, though I will always have a soft corner for “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s