“The Rabbi’s Cat” by Joann Sfar is quite different than anything I have ever read. It’s the story of a talking cat who travels the world with his Jewish master. He travels to France and lives in Algeria. He can’t talk to everybody, but he can talk to a few. For some reason this atheistic cat wants a BarMitzvah. He is constantly aggravating the Head Rabbi. The cat's master has a daughter named Zalabya. Another important character is Cousin Malka. He’s a big man with a white beard and a pet lion. Malka has jobs as a storyteller, a hunter and a swindler. He uses his lion to scare people, then he pretends to save the day. Malka is my personal favorite character.
Here is a chapter that I personally enjoyed a lot. Zalabya's husband had ordered a crate full of books. When the box arrives, it is filled to the brim with books, and a dead Russian! Every rabbi and minister in town is at their household. The Head Rabbi tries to write on the Russian with the "pen of life". He wakes up with a yelp and socks the Head Rabbi on the jaw. He only speaks Russian so no one understands him except for the cat. The cat's master and his son in law have to find a translator. They hear a saint is sharing his home with a Russian.The Russian tells them that the man who was in the box is a painter. They also learn that a large group of Jews live further south of Algeria. They are all hungry for adventure. They make a flag with Russia and Jerusalem combined into one. Along the way they meet a girl who tells them she has no name and also, I quote, TinTin. They only spend a few pages with TinTin. Soon the painter and the girl fall in love. How precious. In the end, the group just becomes dissatisfied with what they find and go home.
The artwork in The Rabbi’s Cat is very beautiful. The cat is sometimes detailed and sometimes simple. The cat's ears are the most expressive part of his body. All of the words are hand written. The style is very French. I would give the art in The Rabbi’s Cat 5 talking cats out of 5.
There is also a movie of The Rabbi's cat. I really like this movie just as much as the book. This is one case where a movie based on a book is completely faithful to the original storyline. It has 93% on rotten tomatoes.
I think if your child is young, I would wait until they are older to read The Rabbi’s Cat. There are some bloody scenes. My recommended age is10 and up.