The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

The Cat Who Went to Heaven is a Newbery Award-winning book by Elizabeth Coatsworth. The story is about a poor young Japanese artist. The artist sends out his housekeeper with some money to buy him food. When she returns with a cat instead of food, the artist is astonished and furious. However, he realizes that the cat is three-colored, which is considered good luck in Japan. The artist decides to keep the cat, and he names it “Good Fortune.” He soon becomes very fond of his new cat.

One day, the head priest of a nearby Buddhist temple pays an unexpected visit to the artist. The priests of the temple would like the artist to create a painting depicting Buddha’s death. They promise a large sum of money to the artist if his painting is successful. The artist is overjoyed by the offer, and he gets to work on the painting.

As the painting develops, the artist depicts various animals surrounding Buddha. The artist’s cat, Good Fortune, occasionally enters the room to watch the artist work. As the painting nears completion, it becomes apparent to the artist that Good Fortune would like a cat to be depicted in the painting. The artist hesitates to include a cat in the painting because it might anger the priests. He must decide whether to please Good Fortune at the risk of losing his commission for the painting.

I found this story to be charming and engaging, and it was fascinating to learn about the Buddhist religion and ancient Japanese folklore. The story is quite short, and I was surprised that such a small book would be considered for the Newberry Award. However, after reading this book I believe the award is well-deserved. I would recommend this book to beginning and advanced readers alike.

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

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