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The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth…

The Cat Who Went to Heaven (original 1930; edition 2008)

by Elizabeth Coatsworth, Raoul Vitale (Illustrator)

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1,144347,145 (3.8)35
Title:The Cat Who Went to Heaven
Authors:Elizabeth Coatsworth
Other authors:Raoul Vitale (Illustrator)
Info:Aladdin (2008), Edition: 3, Paperback, 96 pages

Work details

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth (1930)


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» See also 35 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
A classic fable - I'm sure I've nothing to add to other's reviews. It really does give one a good understanding of the pure principles of the Buddha and his faithful, as best as I can tell. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
This is one of the books that has always captured my mind since I was a child and it will always rate high on my reading list even for its age.

I have been blessed to have come across a Great Britain first edition whose pictures are more charming and beautiful than the one that I grew up with. Its the beauty of these pictures that emphasizes the story while adding to it a refreshing depth although the old housekeeper probably could have been drawn better.

The story is vintage and being set in an exotic background can be somewhat hard to relate with while bringing a sweetly unique flavor to this book. Otherwise Elizabeth's superb writing talent, her beautiful prose and emotional talent in weaving her masterpiece shows why this book has been a lasting story for mostly any people who have gotten a chance to read it.

What makes this book special to me is the fact that even though the religion isn't Christian it searches rather sweetly the concepts of sacrifice, love and compassion while making you question your own limits. Would you love so fiercely like the tiger that you would be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice? Are you able to open yourself to making others happy even if it could mean the loss of everything? And is there such a thing as never being able to forgive? Of having to always live under the same stereotypes since of what someone else has done?

And to make the story so much sweeter you have the additional stories of Buddha that adds a bit of flavor while examining these moral trials. Altogether it's an unforgettable introduction to a little known world that still faces the roughest questions that we ask ourselves..... ( )
  flamingrosedrakon | Jan 6, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
From all this, I would say Coatsworth’s book is well-researched and true to the cultures it is trying to portray, blending Buddhist folklore and Japanese legend she first learned about on her own travels. Perhaps calling it “The Cat Who Went to Nirvana” would have been more politically correct, but I believe the book is more accessible to children with its present title.
added by cej1027 | editNewbery Project (Jan 25, 2009)
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 Taphophile13 | 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
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Once upon a time, far away in Japan, 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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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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