Review: The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth
Jen: I read the next Newbery award book after Hitty
Lisa: which is…
Jen: it’s about cats…one of the many Newbery winners featuring cats…drum roll…The Cat Who Went to Heaven. (it’s about buddha and a cat)
Lisa: okay…I’m wary. I’m imagining siddhartha with a feline
Jen: no…it’s even better. In ancient Japan, there’s this poor painter painting this scene of all the animals comforting buddha as he’s dying. Out of love for his pet cat, he paints a cat into the corner of the picture, too
(note: his pet cat is the most unnatural goody-two-shoes cat ever)
The cat is so overjoyed it’s been painted in the picture….it DIES.
Lisa: no cat is like that
Jen: it flops over dead.
(note: according to legend, the cat was the only creature to reject buddha’s teachings or whatnot)
the monks who commissioned the painting are so aghast that the painter dared to insert a cat into the picture, they want to burn it the next day
Jen: the next day, everyone is abuzz because a miracle happened
Lisa: is the miracle the cat flopping over dead?
Jen: um, no…the painted buddha has stretched its painted arm to scratch the painted kitty under its chin
Lisa: okay. This cat is just boring. It’s acting like a lapdog…so undignified
Well, that’s the short version of The Cat Who Went to Heaven. The long version is, before the painter paints the buddha and each of the animals, he imagines himself as buddha and all the animals, so we get a bunch of little stories nested in the overarching one. The format is based on the Jataka Tales, not to be confused (as I did) with the non-existent Jakarta Tales.
Hope you didn’t mind the spoilers, although I don’t know if you could really call what happens to the cat a spoiler when the title implies that very same outcome.