Looking at my own devil cat Marco, who is currently absorbed in the effort of scratching every possible inch of my once perfect rug, it isn’t hard to imagine why cats are taboo in The Cat who went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth, winner of the 1930 Newbery Medal. Cats are masters of their own destinies, care little for social graces or rules, and refuse to make obeisance to anyone else. According to the book, cats did not pay homage to Buddha and were denied entrance into Heaven. Despite their wicked natures, it is impossible to deny them love, consideration, and bowls of food. The story begins when a poor artist is given a kitten by his housekeeper, and although he disapproves at first, the animal’s presence changes him forever. Anyone who has owned a pet can relate to the inspiring influence of animals. However, in the process of creating his art, the artist clashes with society to be true to himself. It is a revelation of Buddha’s compassion for all creatures at the end that clinches the message of the story. So much more can be said about this book with intertwined messages about beauty, honesty, and tolerance, but it is the simplicity of the tale that allows the narrative to speak for itself. It is a book that delves into complex concepts, but never talks down to its readers. It can be read on many levels, the basic cat aficionado level and the Eastern philosophy level, but no matter which way it is read, it is a pleasure.
Favorite quote: “Only a clear pool has beautiful reflections.”