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The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930)

por Elizabeth Jane Coatsworth

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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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#1131 in our old book database. Rated: Indifferent

I first read this in 1997 with my wife as part of a project we were doing to read all the Newbery Medal books. I honestly didn't remember anything about it when I picked it up today to reread as part of a project I'm doing to index all the books in our home library (I'm getting near the end and we're at 6540 books -- not counting my tens of thousands of comics and graphic novels).

So a starving artist in "ancient Japan" grows to accept the cat that his housekeeper brings home. But the cat's seeming pressure to include it in a painting that should not have a cat in it threatens to derail a commission that could make the artist's career. The writer then slips in a brief biography of Buddha between scenes of the artist painting various animals and feeling emotionally blackmailed by his cat.

I've seen Christian fiction in children's literature plenty of times with crises of faith and miracles, but I think the is the only Buddhist fiction I've ever read that does the same. ( )
  villemezbrown | Sep 20, 2023 |
This is a very short, easy read, with stunning pictures. I liked the story, and thought it was growing in cuteness… and then I got to the ending, and suddenly I didn’t like it so much anymore. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, as the ending is right there in the title of the book. Bugger. (As a side note, as someone else mentioned, if all of this about Buddha, why is it heaven, and not Nirvana?) I would recommend it for the pictures alone. ( )
  Allyoopsi | Jun 22, 2022 |
I might be teaching this in my Religion unit, which is especially funny since my students hate cats. ( )
  leahsusan | Mar 26, 2022 |
This book is a classic of children's literature. It's a Japanese tale about a poor artist who loves a little white cat enough to go against the belief that cats could not go to heavy. Ultimately, Buddha shows that he loves all the animals. Very touching story. ( )
  LuanneCastle | Mar 5, 2022 |
00008095
  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
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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.
adicionada por cej1027 | editarNewbery 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.
adicionada por ReneHohls | editarSchool 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.
adicionada por Taphophile13 | editarLynd (Kendall) Ward. American Writers for Children, 1900-1960. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 22., Ophelia Gilbert (May 6, 1983)
 

» Adicionar outros autores (3 possíveis)

Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Coatsworth, Elizabeth Janeautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Craig, DanielArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
JaelArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Vitale, RaoulIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Ward, LyndIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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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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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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