It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
Last Monday, I shared Chesley McLaren’s Zat Cat! and John Marciano’s Madeline and the Cats of Rome. Today, I have three more kid books to share that feature lovable felines. (Well, maybe not so much in the third book…)
The Cat Who Walked Across France
Written by Kate Banks
Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2004)
Copy provided by Medina County District Library.
For many years the cat had lived in the stone house by the edge of the sea.
He chased the wind that scuttled through the garden.
He watched the birds flitter from tree to tree.
At dusk he curled up in the bend of the old woman’s arm.
The Cat Who Walked Across France is the story of an orphaned kitty that was packed up along with the old woman’s belongings shortly after she died. The cat and the belongings were sent to northern France, where the old woman was born. There was no mention of family or living relatives. The poor cat was all alone. There was no one to scratch his ears or stroke his back.
The cat did the only thing left for him to do: leave. The cat headed south, in search of his old home. On the back cover, readers are provided with a map that traced the cat’s journey, from Rouen to St. Tropez. What would the cat find when he gets there?
Both author and illustrator live in France. This picture book is a heartfelt celebration of a beautiful country. Georg Hallensleben’s two-page, vivid illustrations capture the bustling cities and majestic landscapes of France.
Picasso and Minou
Written by P.I. Maltbie
Illustrated by Pau Estrada
Published by Charlesbridge (2005)
Copy provided by Girard Free Library.
Minou was a cat and not supposed to know very much about art, but he knew what he liked, and he didn’t like his friend’s sad, blue paintings.
Although shelved under juvenile fiction, Picasso and Minou was based on an incident from Pablo Picasso’s life. Picasso started painting in monochromatic shades of blue after learning about the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas. Every night, Picasso would paint the same subject over again: pictures of sad, blue people living in a cold, blue world. It was proof that art is an imitation life.
It was a very difficult time for Picasso. Not only did his friend die, Picasso was also struggling to sell his blue works. “People don’t understand why your paintings are so sad… That’s why you can’t sell them. People are often afraid of what they can’t understand.” Picasso was so poor that he had to let Minou go. He shut the door before Minou could run back in the studio.
A lot more things happened in the story. It would be best if you read the book and find out for yourself. Picasso and Minou is a heartfelt story of loss, friendship, and an animal’s undying loyalty to man. As a treat, I’ve included an actual picture of Picasso and Minou. In addition, Broadsheet shares photos of other famous artists and their cats.
The Cat: Or, How I Lost Eternity
Written by Jutta Richter
Illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner
Translated in English by Anna Brailovsky
Published by Milkweed Editions (2007)
A 2005 (Mildred L.) Batchelder Honor book.
Copy provided by Cleveland Public Library.
Jutta Richter’s The Cat is probably the most interesting children’s book I’ve read in the last couple of weeks. The story is so strange that I am at a loss for words. It was definitely surreal, and almost psychedelic. Read what Joyce Carol Oates has to say about it:
“Ultimately in the way of a Grimm fairy tale recast by Franz Kafka, The Cat is quite unlike any other work of fabulist fiction that I have read. Clearly, Jutta Richter is a distinctive writer.”
The Cat follows an eight-year-old girl named Christine who talks to a white cat every morning on her way to school. Christine eagerly listens as the cat tells her the ways of the world. (But are those the words of the wise?) Christine is always late for school and no one believes her when she tells everyone in school that it was the old cat’s fault.
“Oh, yes, willful was what I wanted to be. Utterly willful. A willful girl was like a hen that crowed: something special.
“And I was special. A whole world unfolded before me on the street, a world with glimmering, rainbow-streaked gasoline puddles. With red, slimy, naked snails. With pebbles and raspberry bonbons. With bent, rusty nails. With marigolds and caterpillars and this old white cat, who was just as immortal as I was.
“Eternity belonged to us.”
Despite being awarded the Batchelder Honor book award in 2005, The Cat is underrated. It has an average 3-star rating on Goodreads. One customer on Amazon gave a one-star review because that person “just didn’t get it.”
I enjoyed Berner’s yellow-black-and-white-themed illustrations. The typeset reminded me of the one used in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. While I found some parts confusing, it made me wonder if that is exactly what the book intended to happen: for readers to share Christine’s confusion. It was, after all, written in the perspective of an eight-year-old who talks to an all-knowing and spiteful cat.
Reading is currently on hold because I’m still in the middle of unpacking stuff in our new apartment. Boxes and boxes to go! Meanwhile, here are pictures of our crazy cat shower curtains (because we like to live dangerously – LOL!):