The Cat Who Went To Heaven
by Elizabeth Coatsworth, first published 1931
“Good Fortune, the cat, having found that she was unable to help either of them, sat quietly in the sun, ate as little as she could, and often spent hours with lowered head before the image of the Buddha on its low shelf.”
Every time I re-read this children’s book, I leave it with tears in my eyes. Enough time passes between each read that the unexpected turn of events both takes me by surprise and moves me to tears. The story is so delicately written, with little poems prefacing each chapter, that your heart just opens more and more. The theme of sacrifice is presented in a very careful and thoughtful manner.
This is an unusual book, in that it is partly historical fiction. Each aspect that the artist in the story paints, describes an event in the Buddha’s life. However, the events are written in a way to bring out the universal themes of compassion and kindness, rather than a theological or religious meaning. At the same time, the book every so slightly makes a comment on the rigidity of religious institutions, and the power of love to over come that.
When I think of who might love this book as much as I do, I think first of any children who love animals. Second, it will appeal to children who resonate with the themes of kindness and compassion. Finally, it would work well in a school situation, such as Waldorf, where the historical figure of the Buddha is presented as part of the fifth grade curriculum. Because of the unusual ending, I would not recommend it to children under the age of 9, though some 8-year-olds could understand it.
Buy this at your local independent bookstore