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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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1,254426,314 (3.77)38
Title:The Cat Who Went to Heaven
Authors:Elizabeth Coatsworth
Other authors:Raoul Vitale (Illustrator)
Info:Aladdin (2008), Edition: 3, Paperback, 96 pages

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


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» See also 38 mentions

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Summary: In this story, a starving Japanese artist, sends his housekeeper out to purchase some much-needed food, but instead the housekeeper returns with just a cat....another mouth to feed. The cat forces the Japanese artist to reconsider his feelings and he becomes inspired by the cat.

Personal reaction: I wasn't particularly fond of this book, actually. It went off in a wild, unexpected direction that I found a tad bit unsettling. It just didn't appeal to me. I admired the imagery and vivid colors, but that's about it.

Classroom extensions: I'd ask the kids to draw a picture of what they imagined "cat heaven" would be like.

We could make 'cat ears' out of cardboard and pretend that we were rescued cats. I'd let each child pick the color of the ears.
  Dowrox | Jul 24, 2016 |
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 | Jun 6, 2016 |
A bit of a morality play about Buddhism, but sweetly and serenely told in just 57 pages with black and white paintings of animals interspersed. There are only three characters - the artist, the housekeeper, and the cat "Good Fortune". After the cat arrives, the Japanese artist is commissioned to paint the death of the Buddha. He reflects on the Buddha's life, and the lives of the animals his spirit inhabited or who helped him on his journeys and on the legend of the cat - the only animal not to enter heaven because of her own independence. There are interesting discussions out there about gender roles in the story, but as a story of the time, the culture and the Buddha, it is quite well done and a nice easy read that might still be appreciated by children today - especially those who are fond of the cat. ( )
  GReader28 | May 2, 2016 |
The Cat Who Went to Heaven is a book about a poor artist in China. He painted a portrait of Buddha dying and a lot of other animals who Buddha was in the spirit of. There were a lot of good stories in this book like a dog who saved a girl from being sacrificed.I'm not interested in this sort of book but I hope other people like it. I didn't like it because I thought it was a little bit too repetitive.It was to repetitive because all the stories about the animals were almost the same. ( )
  CooperW8 | Apr 13, 2016 |
A poor Japanese painter, who has fallen on hard times, sends his housekeeper out to buy food. Instead, she brings home a white cat from the dock, stating that the house is "lonely". Although initially unhappy (as he is quite hungry and remarks that he can't remember what rice cakes taste like, and states that cats are devils), the good behaviour of the cat leads him to change his mind. He names the cat Good Fortune soon after he notes the good behavior of the cat. At breakfast, the painter notes the cat praying to the image of Buddha. The painter comments on his own lack of attention to prayer, as a result of the hard times he has lived through. Soon after, he notices the hungry cat catch, then release a bird. The cat seems to be given human characteristics: it removes itself when it cannot be useful and follows the proper social behaviour.

Almost completely moneyless, the painter is commissioned by the temple (which concluded to hire him after putting slips of paper in the court-yard and seeing which remained) to paint a picture of the death of Buddha, accompanied by animals. The painter is given a large sum of money as a first payment, to "put his mind at ease". Despite the good fortune, the painter soon realizes that money cannot solve his problems. The cat, who is seen by the artist as a great and noble being, cannot be glorified in the painting due to the supposedly unlucky nature of cats that prevents them from entering Nirvana. This is because, according to classic Buddhist beliefs, the cat in Buddha's time rebelled against him and did not receive his blessing. Consequently, no cat can enter Heaven.

When the picture is completed, Good Fortune seems to notice and protest at the lack of the cat in the painting. Deeply touched by her sadness, the artist finally paints a small cat together with the rest of the animals, knowing that it will displease the monks. Upon seeing this, Good Fortune dies of happiness. By her grave is a peach tree with a bell hanging on it, which the housekeeper notes that she can hear it singing:" Rejoice!" The mural is finally delivered and praised by the monks until they notice the presence of the cat, and reject it. Nevertheless, the evening brings the news of a miracle: people gather around the mural, and the painter arrives to find the image of the Lord Buddha extending his hand as a blessing over a small white cat. In the story, the housekeeper has eight songs, each at the end of a chapter.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (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 (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Coatsworth, Elizabeth Janeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Craig, DanielCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
JaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary 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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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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