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The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Jane…

The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930)

by Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth

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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I read this lovely book on this hot August afternoon. It's a bittersweet tale of an artist, a cat and the life of Buddha. ( )
  pussreboots | Sep 20, 2014 |
The cat who went to heaven is about a poor painter who receives a cat. The cat is supposed to be unlucky but after having the cat the painter begins to like it. Then his luck turns as he is commissioned to paint a picture of the dieing Buddha with many animals paying homage. After finishing the painting the painters cat protested wanting a cat in the painting even though it would not be liked by the Buddha, so he painted a small white cat in the back corner. It was not liked, until miraculously the painting changed and had the cat next to the Buddha and the painting was loved.
I loved this book especially because i own cats and i know how they can be distant and aloof. I also know how easily they crawl and purr into peoples hearts.
It would be a nice introduction to another cultures ideas. cats have penetrated into many cultures and have many different thoughts about them. Egypt being the most prominent in my mind. ( )
  Dyne001 | Jul 18, 2014 |
A starving artist and his housekeeper can barely spare pennies to buy rice to eat. One day the housekeeper brings home a cat. Reluctantly the artist become very attached. He names him Good Fortune. To the artist surprise a priest comes to visit the artist. He tells him that he has been selected by Buddha to paint a masterpiece depicting the death of Buddha. Everyday he meditate and sees images of Buddha's life. And it shows him what to put on the painting. To his disappointment he discovers that cats will not go to heaven. As he paints his cat is very impressed at his talent, but wishes he could see a cat. Finally, knowing he will probably not get paid for the painting he paints a cat. Good Fortune is so happy he dies right then and there. To the towns amazement, the painting changes overnight and Buddhas arms are reached out to the cat.

Personal Reaction:
I didn't understand much about this book. I am not very familiar with Buddhist religion. I learned a little about it, through this book. But the book wasn't one of my favorites, by far.

Classroom Extension:
This isn't a book I would use in class. To controversial with religious beliefs. But here are examples anyways.
1. Each chapter has a song that the housekeeper would sing. You could have the class break up in groups and sing a song they liked.
2. Write a reflection on why they think the artist named his cat Good Fortune. Was it because it was good fortune that he got the cat, or what he hoping the cat would bring good fortune.
  Tarakalynn | Jul 15, 2014 |
I thought this was wonderful. I absolutely plan to share this. I wonder very much what the chances are of this opinion being shared by a child in the age group. I'm thinking this could be found very interesting and spur a curiosity of the culture by some and be found very boring and unliked by others. I hope I get a chance to find out. ( )
  Yona | May 2, 2013 |
Originally published in 1930, Elizabeth Coatsworth's The Cat Who Went to Heaven was the Newbery Medal winner in 1931, and relates the story of a poor Japanese artist, his devoted housekeeper, and the gentle cat that comes into their lives. Angry at first, when his housekeeper brings home a little white kitten, rather than the dinner he had been expecting, the artist is reconciled to his new pet - soon named "Good Fortune" - by her quiet good manners, and by her obvious devotion to him, to the housekeeper, and to the Buddha. When the village priest commissions a painting of the Buddha for the temple, the artist immerses himself in the life of his subject, "living" the Enlightened One's life, and becoming each animal that visited him upon his deathbed. But although Good Fortune keeps faithful watch with him, as he begins his great work, and obviously longs to be included, the artist can not include her in the painting. After all, the cat was the only animal to refuse the Buddha's teaching, and the only animal not blessed by him...

This brief chapter-book (sixty-three pages, in my edition), which alternates between the main prose narrative, and short poems ostensibly written by the housekeeper, has the feeling of folklore to it. The author references the classic Japanese tale of The Boy Who Drew Cats in her text, as well as many different stories about the life of the Buddha, and his reincarnated lives in various animal forms. I found myself wondering how accurate Coatsworth's depiction was of some of these traditions, particularly as it related to Buddhist beliefs about cats. Are they really considered the only animal that is barred from heaven? Did the Japanese truly regard them as demonic? What about the lucky Beckoning Cat? Leaving this issue aside, I found the story itself very engaging, and I think young readers who enjoy animal stories will as well.

There is an incredibly poignant quality to this story, and while Good Fortune's death from pure joy, when the artist relents, and includes her in the painting, sets up the concluding miracle very well - from a storytelling perspective, happy endings often work best when they follow upon terrible tragedy - this aspect of the tale is still troubling. Troubling in a good way... a haunting way. I am reminded of Tomi DePaola's The Clown of God, which was a childhood favorite of mine, and which also tells the story of a miracle. A miracle that, like this one, requires a joyful sacrifice. Perhaps all miracles do? Something I'll have to think about... ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Cat Heaven sounds like paradise. A rhyming text describes a realm in which felines are fed from God's countertop, a place where they no longer get stuck in trees because now they can fly. There are thousands of toys, and soft angel laps in which to cuddle. There is even a quiet time to look back on former homes and loving people. The primitive, childlike painting style is similar to Rylant's work in Dog Heaven (Scholastic, 1995). Both books serve the same purpose of comforting anyone mourning a lost pet, but the writing flows more easily and the pictures are more mature in Cat Heaven. The story has spiritualism and reverence but not in a traditional manner. God is depicted as a kindly older man who washes the cats' bowls and "walks in His garden with a good black book and a kitty asleep on His head." His coloring varies from pink to brown to yellowish tan. The visual impact of the book is stunning. Cats of all colors frolic through the exuberantly hued pages. Vibrant yellows, blues, reds, purples, and greens create a feast for the eyes. Even the color of the text changes to contrast with the background. Whether read as a story to younger children or used in a discussion of the nature of heaven with older ones, this deceptively simple, sweet book is rewarding.
added by ReneHohls | editSchool Library Journal, October 1997, Vol. 43, p108, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst (May 7, 1997)
Most of Coatsworth's stories are quiet tales, some of them disappointingly flat to today's children, and others are filled with mystery and a sense of mythic time. Her prizewinning story, The Cat Who Went to Heaven , captures the mystery and the compassion of the Buddha--a figure being painted by the artist in the book. As the artist recalls traditional Buddhist stories about the sacrifices of the snail and the elephant, the heroism of the horse, the dreamlike beauty of the swan, the honesty and dignity of the buffalo, the compassion of the monkey, and the petitions for mercy spoken by the doe, he paints them all into his picture. Because, of all the animals, the cat had refused homage to Buddha, tradition requires the artist to omit the cat. However, since the artist had so often seen his cat praying to Buddha, he violates this tradition. Offended by the presence of the cat in the picture, the priests take the artist's picture to burn it. Overnight, however, a miraculous change in the picture occurs: "the Buddha whom he had painted ... had stretched out an arm in blessing, and under the holy hand-knelt the figure of a tiny cat, with pretty white head bowed in adoration." The interweaving of Buddhist myth and legend with observations of the cat and the artist creates a story with mystery and reverence for all life. The story's strength lies in its economy and its mythic power.
In 1930 Ward did the original woodcuts for Elizabeth Coatsworth 's The Cat Who Went to Heaven, the Newbery Medal winner. The story concerns a poor artist who was commissioned by a priest to make a drawing of the last days of the Lord God Buddha. Incorporated into the narrative are details of the life-style of Buddha, touching on his humanity and sacrifices for others. For each quality--such as courage, nobility, honesty, and fidelity--an animal is put into the artist's composite painting. Only the cat is omitted, because of his supposed unworthiness; yet in the end, the artist relents and to represent love and tenderness draws a cat into the picture. Lynd Ward's illustrations for the original 1930 edition of The Cat Who Went to Heaven are done in shades of black and gray, starkly simple yet in perfect harmony with the oriental mood of the text.

Coatsworth's book was republished in 1958, and he was again asked to do the illustrations. The beautiful pictures for this edition were prepared on Japanese rice paper, printed in two colors, buff and gray, with a sepia background. Still suggesting the feel of the Orient, they are more detailed, more numerous, but equally effective as an interpretation of the text.
added by ReneHohls | editLynd (Kendall) Ward. American Writers for Children, 1900-1960. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 22., Ophelia Gilbert (May 6, 1983)

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coatsworth, Elizabeth Janeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Cyra Thomas
First words
Once upon a time, far away in Japan, a poor young artist sat alone in his little house, waiting for his dinner.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
In ancient Japan a struggling artist is angered when his housekeeper brings home a tiny white cat he can barely afford to feed.
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A little cat comes to the home of a poor Japanese artist and, by humility and devotion, brings him good fortune.

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