I Am Tama, Lucky Cat: a Japanese Legend by Wendy Henrichs, illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. Peachtree (9781561455898), 2011
Rating: 1- 5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Picture Book
What did you like about the book? This lovely and lyrical picture book tells the story of the legendary lucky cat of Japan. A white cat with orange and black spots finds a home with a kindly monk. The monk is surprised to open the door to find the cat with its paw raised. As the cat tells the reader, “When I sit, I often raise my paw in the time honored Japanese greeting, Come to me!” The monk and his few worshippers are poor, but he welcomes the cat and names it Tama. To thank the monk for his home, Tama provides simple gifts of comfort and companionship. One stormy evening, Tama is washing by the temple gate when a samurai on horseback appears. Planning to shelter under a cherry tree, the samurai instead approaches the gate when he sees the cat waving its paw. A bolt of lightning fells the cherry tree and the samurai is saved, “‘Thank-you, enchanting cat. By beckoning me forward, you saved my life. I will come in and make this temple my family’s place of honor.’” Tama had truly brought luck to the monk and the temple. The watercolor illustrations beautifully complement the tone and Japanese setting of the story. Each spread contains a full page illustration on on side and a long, vertical panel illustration on the opposite, evoking traditional Japanese prints. An Author’s Note gives background on the legend along with photographs of the temple and lucky cat figurines.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? Readers interested in world folklore will enjoy this tale. Share it with readers interested in Japanese culture and those who love cats.
Who should buy this book? Public Libraries and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Picture Books
Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA
Date of review: 1/8/2021