book cover Cat and Fish
by Neil Curtis and Joan Grant

Picture book | 32 pp | Years 24

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[ Overview | Author profile | Illustrator profile | Focus questions ]


Cat and Fish is the story of two characters that come from very different worlds the land and the water. When they meet, they form an unusual friendship and decide they want to share in each other's lives. While Cat shows Fish his world, Fish realises she misses the sea. Cat takes her back home and meets Fish's friends. Understanding each other's different needs, they seek a solution so that they can remain friends and still be together.

Neil Curtis' stunning black and white illustrations reflect this story of opposites, highlighting the contrasts between the two different worlds of Cat and Fish. Created in pen and ink, the illustrations appear as engravings with intricate detail and effective use of line to represent different terrains. This is further enhanced by text layout and design that support the illustrations and reflect the different environments.

In 2004, Cat and Fish was named Picture Book of the Year by the Australian Children's Book Council and has been published and distributed internationally. A sequel, Cat and Fish Go to See, continues the collaboration of Joan Grant and Neil Curtis, as well as the friendship of these two very different characters. Young children will enjoy this simple story of friendship, while older children and adults will be prompted to consider the deeper messages in the book.

Read a review of Cat and Fish on the Aussiereview website(

Author profile

Joan Grant grew up in Brooklyn, New York and has since worked and lived in Paris, Singapore, New Delhi, Shanghai and Melbourne. She is a teacher, writer and historian, as well as being able to speak French and a little Chinese. Joan now lives in inner-city Melbourne. She works at Monash University as a senior lecturer in contemporary Asian studies and one day a week with asylum seekers. Joan has five grown up children. Joan and Neil Curtis share a respectful friendship and have collaborated on a further adventure of Cat and Fish called Cat and Fish Go to See.

Illustrator profile

Neil Curtis was born in the East End of London and immigrated with his parents to Broadmeadows, just north of Melbourne, in the late 1950s. He found the move difficult as both his accent and his lack of interest in sport made it difficult for him to be accepted. Neil now lives in Melbourne where he works as a freelance illustrator. His work has been exhibited in Australia and internationally, and he has been awarded the Silver Award for Illustration by the Australian Writers and Art Directors Association. Neil has published a number of children's books including The Roo Book and Bear Dinkum, as well as illustrating short novels such as Big Feet, Very Sweet and collaborating with Joan Grant to produce another book about Cat and Fish.

Focus questions

Before reading the book

  • Describe the details of the front cover illustration. What clues does the illustrator provide that suggest that this is a fantasy story?
  • What special qualities do you think a fish and a cat would have that could support a friendship between the two?
  • What is unusual about a cat and a fish travelling together?
  • Read the blurb and study the illustration on the back cover. Why do you think the cat and the fish are described as an 'unlikely pair'? What 'new ways' do you think the pair will need to learn if they are going to travel together?

During and after reading the book

  • What unusual experiences did each character have that required them to be adaptable?
  • How does the design of the text add further meaning to the story and support the illustrations?
  • In what ways does the use of black and white illustrations support the style of this story?
  • What different environments do the animals visit in the story? How do they adjust and cope when placed in different situations?
  • How do the two animals show respect for each other's differences?

© Curriculum Corporation 2006