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I AM TAMA, LUCKY CAT by Wendy Henrichs

I AM TAMA, LUCKY CAT

A Japanese Legend

By Wendy Henrichs (Author) , Yoshiko Jaeggi (Illustrator)

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-56145-589-8
Publisher: Peachtree

This quiet retelling of a popular legend will have limited appeal.

The plot is straightforward, and the cat narrator pleasant if not especially engaging. The qualities of compassion and generosity that are gently demonstrated and the theme of virtue rewarded are undeniably laudable. Unfortunately, readers and listeners will likely feel distanced not just by the time and place of the story (Japan several hundred years ago) but by the formal language, lengthy text and limited, low-key action. A poor monk adopts a stray cat. The monk also cares for the physical and spiritual needs of the people in the surrounding area to the best of his abilities and (very) limited resources. The cat’s habit of raising one paw in a beckoning motion eventually brings good fortune when a rich samurai who happens to be passing is saved from a falling tree during a fierce storm. Like the text, the pictures fail to generate much interest. Jaeggi’s lovely watercolors reflect the serene tone and evoke the exotic setting, and her use of panels echoes traditional Japanese artwork. Depictions of the cat in its characteristic pose seem awkward, but other pictures show flashes of sly feline charm and add some humor and movement. Overall, however, the illustrations have a static feel that weighs down the already slow story. Koko Nishizuka and Rosanne Litzinger's The Beckoning Cat (2009) tells the same story but with greater success.

Superficially attractive but ultimately misses the mark. (author’s note) (Picture book/folktale. 6-9)