1931: The Cat Who Went to Heaven (that was then, this is meow)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 4/5

Legend has it that among all the animals, only the cat refused to bow down to Buddha and listen to his teachings. She alone of all creatures was not blessed by him. Thus, it was rumored that no cat could enter heaven. And therein lies the seeds for conflict in Elizabeth Coatsworth’s The Cat Who Went to Heaven.

A story that will pull on the heart strings of any cat lover, The Cat Who Went to Heaven tells the tale of an artist who is commissioned to paint a picture of Buddha’s last days, surrounded by the animals he had met throughout his journeys. As the artist reverently draws each creature, he reveals how each animal came to meet Buddha while his housekeeper and calico cat listen to him. As the bond deepens between artist and cat, he comes to the terrible realization that he cannot paint the cat into the portrait.

The titular cat, named Good Fortune, is the best part of the book. The author perfectly captures a cat’s unpredictable personality – one day snooty and prickly, the next day loving and loyal. Good Fortune’s bond with the artist is true to life, and it’s easy to take offense on her behalf when she realizes that the artist is intentionally going to leave the cat out of the painting. The cat’s subsequent silent treatment is felt both by the reader and the artist.

The story ends with a touch of melancholy, but it is still heartwarming, nonetheless. The Cat Who Went to Heaven can appeal to all age groups since children may not understand all the nuances within the narrative. If nothing else, The Cat Who Went to Heaven is a charming and thoughtful story that depicts the growing bond between a man and his cat.

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