June 4 – Hug Your Cat Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-white-cat-and-the-monk

About the Holiday

Just as it sounds, this holiday celebrates all the benefits of snuggling with your cat. While some cats may be cuddlier than others, today gives cat owners the opportunity to show just how much they love their feline friends. If you don’t happen to have a cat, why not consider visiting an animal shelter and showing some love to homeless kittens—you may even want to bring one home!

The White Cat and the Monk

Retold by Jo Ellen Bogart | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

In the nighttime a white cat approaches a monastery. He slips through a window and pads along a darkened corridor and down stone steps. He creeps behind a barrel, vase, and pitcher standing in a row and adds his shadow to the black mosaic on the floor. He leaps the last few steps and hurries along to the doorway, leaking light.

His secret signal alerts the occupant of the room, who opens the door to this playful feline. “I, monk and scholar, share my room with my white cat, Pangur,” the old man explains. He lifts Pangur into his arms and strokes him then releases him to pursue his “special trade.” The monk also returns to his trade—studying ancient manuscripts to understand their meaning.

A dedicated scholar, the monk reveals, “Far more than any fame, I enjoy the peaceful pursuit of knowledge. I treasure the wealth to be found in my books.” Pangur is a dedicated scholar of another kind, studying “the hole that leads to the mouse’s home.” In that moment both man and cat become hunters—one for meaning and the other for prey.

The two do not disturb each other for each is content in his pursuit. Pangur at last “finds his mouse” as the monk finds “light in the darkness.”

Jo Ellen Bogart’s quiet and graceful retelling of Pangur Bán, a beloved Irish poem from the 9th century is a welcome respite in this age of multitasking and mega-activity. With sparse, but compelling and lyrical language, Bogart uncovers the companionable relationship between the monk and his cat as each follows their heart together.

The fine textured pages of Sydney Smith’s illustrations recall the beauty of parchment as the smooth gray and gold line drawings of the monastery’s architecture and characters give way to the vibrant colors of ancient manuscripts and the natural environment. The contentment and friendship of the monk and the cat are sweetly drawn in the characters’ mirrored actions as well as the depictions of a long-held affection between man and beast in the panels of the manuscript the monk studies. As the monk states, “Ours is a happy tale.”

Reassuring and reaffirming, The White Cat and the Monk honors the individual challenges and quests that make us who we are, and would be a wonderful addition to regular quiet-time reading.

Ages 4 and up (this book will be enjoyed by both children and adults)

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1554987801

Hug Your Cat Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cat-toy

Fishing for Playtime Cat Toy

 

Cats love to chase after bouncing, sliding objects, and they love fish. While this toy may not taste as good as fish, it sure smells better and doesn’t require worms or hooks to attain!

Supplies

  • Old or new child’s sock
  • Fiber Fill
  • Yarn or string
  • Fabric paint or markers
  • Small bell (optional)
  • Catnip (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint or draw fins and eyes on the sock
  2. Fill the sock with fiber fill
  3. Add a teaspoon of catnip (optional)
  4. Add a small bell (optional)
  5. Use the yarn or string to close the opening with a strong knot
  6. Leave a long section of yarn or string to pull or dangle the toy

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