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January 26, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

ONLY THE CAT SAW by Ashley Wolff (Dodd, Mead: $12.95; 34 pp., ages 3 to 7). It's about time that Dad gets credit for cooking and setting the table while Mom tenders their children. And it's especially good for youngsters to witness this in a picture book along with other scenes typically unmentioned. This contemporary family lives on a farm but instead of an apron, Mom wears jeans and tennis shoes as she hangs laundry in the sun.

Really though, the story is about their cat and what he sees after he stretches from his daylong nap. Lights click off in the house, and outside a busy night world begins. He roams around the garden, swats at fireflies, sees a comet and spies on an owl chasing a mouse. Then from the safety of the porch, he watches as rain splashes a scarecrow and lightning streaks the sky.

Inside, Amy quietly gets up to go to the bathroom and since the door is ajar, the cat--and we--see her sitting on the toilet. Later, Mother nurses her baby in the rocking chair, a look of sleepy contentment on her face, her breast gracefully exposed. These are real scenes that kids often wonder about, and if ever an artist did them tastefully, Wolff did.

Finally a rooster crows, and after Cat watches the sunrise, he curls up in the kitchen to sleep as Dad makes breakfast. Children will love the broad, peaceful drawings and the type is large enough to tempt early readers.

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