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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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1,332445,829 (3.75)42
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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This book was different than most books I am used to reading. I do think it was an enjoyable read. So, the story takes place in ancient Japan. It is about a down on his luck artist and his house keeper. One day the housekeeper brings home a cat instead of food. The artist is upset until he finds out the cat is a three-colored cat which is good luck. The two decide to name the cat Good Fortune. Later, the artist is picked by the monks to create a painting of the Buddha surrounded by all the animals that pay homage to him. The artist is given three payments from the monks beforehand. While painting the animals the artist realizes he cannot paint his cat into the painting. Because cats are supposedly cursed they cannot reach Nirvana, which means cats cannot go to heaven. Good Fortune notices there is not a cat in the painting and is very upset. The artist gives in and paints the cat in the back corner of the painting. The artist knows this will not make the monks happy. After seeing the cat in the painting Good Fortune dies happy. When the monks see the painting, they reject it. the next day the artist arrives to find the painting has miraculously changed. Now the Buddha is reaching out to the cat blessing it. The cat is now sitting next to the buddha. Teachers can use this book to explain diverse cultures to their students. They can also use it to talk about different countries on a map. ( )
  Jennifer_McLeod | Apr 22, 2017 |
This is a strange little book. I tried to like it, as it is an interesting glimpse into the life of a Japanese Buddhist artist. However, it drags and has an abrupt ending. Not impressed. ( )
  aharey | Nov 30, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (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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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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