by Joy Harjo
illustrated by Paul Lee
I\’m anticipating the time when my fourteen-month old will sit still long enough to read real picture books. I do like good children\’s books and now sometimes when we\’re in the children\’s section at the library, she\’s pushing chairs around and playing with the few toys they have there; I\’m idly looking at titles and covers on display and sometimes I bring a few home to read myself, or share with my older child.
The seven-year-old is into Ramona books right now, so she declines whenever I offer a picture book. Last week she read the episode where Ramona\’s elderly cat dies, and started talking to me about how cats have nine lives. I saw this kitty title on the picture-book shelf and when I saw the beautiful rich paintings and that it was about a cat with nine lives, I had to bring it home.
The Good Luck Cat features a Native American family and their beloved tabby cat Woogie. A young girl narrates the story, telling how her aunt said Woogie brought them good luck, and explaining how cats have nine lives. She recounts how Woogie lost each of his extra lives, in narrow escapes from the neighbor\’s dog, a car in the street, falling out of a tree etc. The best picture is when he momentarily gets shut in the clothes drier and tumbles around yowling before someone rescues him! (This part of the story could be distressing to younger readers, as the cat also gets threatened by boys with BB guns) Then Woogie disappears and the girl worries that he\’s lost his ninth life and will never come back. She puts out food on the porch for him and worries anxiously until he returns, missing part of his ear but apparently a happy cat, and certainly glad to be back home.
This could be any family with their pet cat. The identity of them as being Native American isn\’t really prominent, apart from the mention of the family gathering at a powwow, they really look like any other kids. The little girl is mischievous and irresponsible at times; she shuts her cat in a box and hides it under other things in the trunk to try and sneak him into a party, for example. But when he goes missing she anxiously posts lost-cat signs and frets about his safety. It\’s a tender, well-told story that appealed to my older kid who was intrigued with the nine-lives concept, as well as the younger one who just loved the cat\’s faces. And did I mention the illustrations are just lovely?
rating: 4/5 ……. 32 pages, 2000