The Christmas Cat

illus. by Amy June Bates. 32p. Dial. Oct. 2013. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3498-2. LC 2012005716.
K-Gr 3—According to the author's note, this somewhat lengthy story was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of La Madonna del Gatto as well as legends of a cat that purred Jesus to sleep. Only a kitten hiding in the stables can console a crying baby Jesus, and the two newborns form a bond. Later, when the family must flee Herod's forces, the feline can't be found and is seemingly left behind. Much to the delight of a heartbroken Jesus, the cat has secretly stowed away in the family's belongings, helping to keep him quiet as they escape to Egypt. With its focus beyond the Nativity, this story is an interesting change from typical Christmas fare. The expressive characters set against the rich background of watercolors in ochres, blues, and grays are lovely, but the frequent use of white text against this background makes reading a challenge. Cat lovers might be the best audience for this take on a familiar tale.—Brooke Sheets, Los Angeles Public Library
Mary, Joseph, and the stable animals try to soothe a crying baby Jesus on the night of his birth. But it is a small ginger-and-white kitten, who nuzzles the babe’s neck and emits a “calm, contented purr,” who finally stops Jesus’ tears. The child and the cat become steadfast companions, and an author’s note speculates about the possibility of such a relationship based on legend and drawings by da Vinci. Bates’s textured watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations in soft hues of blue, green, brown, yellow, and white add a peaceful quality to a sweet Nativity story appropriate for Christmas Eve bedtime readings. cynthia k. ritter

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