Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci of the Madonna and baby Jesus holding a cat inspire this tender Nativity story about a kitten that becomes a beloved pet of the Christ child.
The story begins with a wailing baby. “Jesus was beautiful, like all babies. And like all babies, he cried.” That thematic thread of a cranky, crying (but cute) Christ child continues, with the only thing that will calm him the purring and attention of a ginger kitten. The cat bonds with the baby in the stable immediately after the child’s birth, soothing the crying baby when parents, doves, a cow and a donkey have all failed. When Joseph, Mary and Jesus flee King Herod’s soldiers, the cat stows away in the donkey’s pack, once again soothing the child and stopping his crying. The final page of the story shows Mary next to Jesus as a boy with his full-grown cat, with one of Leonardo’s similarly structured drawings reproduced on the last page with an author’s note. Evocative illustrations in watercolor, gouache and pencil are filled with golden light, capturing the touching interactions between mother and baby, child and cat.
This warm, inviting interpretation offers a new slant on the familiar story, interesting to all but especially irresistible to cat lovers. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)