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The Cat with Seven Names
All you need are friends.
In a busy urban neighborhood, six very different individuals who don’t know each other have something in common: they all relish the companionship of a friendly cat that roams the area. From a librarian to a homeless war veteran to a little girl who’s just moved in, this cat makes everyone’s world a little brighter, a little less lonely.
Each neighbor is unaware of the cat’s visits with everyone else, so he goes by many different names: Stuart Little, Dove, Placido—the cat answers to them all. Only when a near-accident threatens the cat does everyone learn his true identity and owner. In learning about each other, the people in the neighborhood come together as a community.
The Cat with Seven Names is a heartfelt story that reflects the need and desire of all people to be a part of a community, to have a connection with someone or something—be it animal or human. Told from the perspective of each of the six neighbors, Tony Johnston introduces point of view to readers of all ages, while Christine Davenier’s loose watercolor illustrations beautifully depict the diversity of the world around us.
This book is good for your brain because it provides:
Point of view, a look at diversity and multiculturalism in our world, the importance of friendship
Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
(College and Career Readiness) Reading Literature. Grades 3 to 6. Standards 1-7, 9, 10.
Variously christened "Stuart Little," "Kitty-boy," "Placido," "Mooch," "Dove" and "Mouse," the round gray cat offers companionship to a lonely librarian, an elderly gentleman, a widowed Hispanic opera lover, a red-haired policewoman with a fondness for fast food, a homeless vet, and a girl and her mom just settling into their new home. A (happy) twist at the end removes the cat from this particular community, but his presence, however temporary, has a lasting impact. Johnston's text is smooth and conversational, with pleasantly distinct voices for each of the characters, but it may prove overly long for some young listeners. The themes of diversity and connection are commendable, but occasionally, they seem to outweigh Johnston's plump hero. Davenier's soft ink-and-colored-pencil illustrations, mostly double-page spreads, have the fluidity of watercolors as well as a scratchy, scruffy charm. Repeated patterns and colors create a cohesive feel, as does the appearance of various characters in the background both before and after they have been introduced.
Children will likely enjoy this visit to a newly united neighborhood, even if the catalyst for its creation is more device than distinct individual.
Like the sailor with a love interest in every port, this feline hero has persuaded several households that he’s a stray in need of feeding—despite his truly impressive girth. Johnston (Laugh-Out-Loud Baby) gives each of the cat-lovers a distinctive (if slightly caricatured) voice and a particular loneliness or longing. Davenier’s (the Very Fairy Princess books) loosely sketched spreads, painted in gentle pastels, offer more cheerful notes, softening the characters and making their essential benevolence clear. There’s a librarian ("He is so big I have dubbed him Stuart Little"), an older man ("Name’s Kitty-boy. I hope he likes that"), a Mexican widower ("Placido... you keep dry, amigo"), a hardworking cop ("I called him Mooch"), a homeless veteran ("Ol’ kitty brings me... a speck of peace. That’s why I call him Dove"), and a single mother and her daughter ("Here, Mouse... have some leftover ham"). A minor accident brings the six together and reveals the cat’s secret in a quietly satisfying way. Johnston’s story combines the particular charm of cats, the flavor of city life, and the way unexpected events make communities out of strangers.
Sometimes city residents spend their days never noticing the world around them or the neighbors that could become friends. But a shared goal or interest may bring them together as this sweet story about a savvy feline reveals. As a plump gray cat wanders into the lives of six different families, each of the men, women, and a girl offer it food, give it a new name, and accept its companionship. Brought together by their concern for their furry friend when he is almost struck by a car, they all find that they have something in common despite their differences. Thanks to a cat that knew his way around the neighborhood as well as around some lonely folks' hearts, none of these neighbors will ever be lonely again. The ink and colored pencil illustrations highlight the city's busy pace and the eagerness with which all of the cat's new "owners" take him in. Although free-roaming cats on city streets may be at risk, in this case, Regis clearly uses his freedom wisely.
- By author: Tony Johnston Illustrated by: Christine Davenier
- ISBN: 978-1-58089-381-7
- Binding Information: Hardcover
- Ages: 5 - 8