King o' the Cats


Have you ever seen a cat wearing a crown? Or noticed a group of cats hunting a dog?

Young Peter Black has, but no one believes him! Peter is positive, though, that there's something a little odd about all the cats in town, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it. With vibrant illustrations by Kristin Sorra, Aaron Shepard retells a classic English folktale that will have readers looking twice at their cats! Meow, meow...

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Have you ever seen a cat wearing a crown? Or noticed a group of cats hunting a dog?

Young Peter Black has, but no one believes him! Peter is positive, though, that there's something a little odd about all the cats in town, and he's determined to get to the bottom of it. With vibrant illustrations by Kristin Sorra, Aaron Shepard retells a classic English folktale that will have readers looking twice at their cats! Meow, meow...

A church sexton, known for his wild tales, has three weird encounters with magical cats and can't convince Father Allen that they really happened, until the priest's cat shows an intense interest.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Telling wild stories can get a person in a lot of trouble. And so young Peter Black found himself working at the last job he would find in his town. He was the sexton of a church, and Father Allen told him that the wild stories would have to stop. However, one night when Peter couldn't sleep, he saw the lights on in the church. Much to his amazement, the church pews were filled with cats. He watched as a cat in bishop's robes placed a gold crown on a kneeling cat's head. He tried to tell Father Allen the next day, and thought he saw Father Allen's black cat listening intently. Of course, Father thought it was another of his wild stories. But the next night, another amazing sight occurred and this time, Father Allen believed him. Shepard has expanded the traditional British "King o' the Cats" in a retelling that adds marvelous detail and expands the story without losing the flavor or the storyline of the original. Sorra's illustrations, with their slightly off-kilter geometric shapes are perfectly suited. Midnight in a graveyard, black cats and shadows make this a fine choice for Halloween or anytime throughout the year when a good, spooky tale is warranted. 2004, Atheneum Books For Young Readers, Ages 5 to 9.
—Sharon Salluzzo
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-Peter Black, who "loved to tell wild stories," replaces the unnamed sexton in this expanded spin on Joseph Jacobs's spooky tale. The young man works at the Church of St. Thomas the Believer, where he has several unnerving encounters with a group of cats. Each time, he relates the tales to Father Allen, who is reluctant to believe him. After Peter witnesses a feline funeral, the officiating cat instructs him, "Tell Tom Tildrum- that Tim Toldrum's- dead." When Peter later recounts the events to Father Allen, the priest's pet jumps up upon hearing these words and declares, "Then I'm the King o' the Cats" and runs away. In addition to personalizing the characters, Shepard stretches the events to the standard folktale cycle of three evenings. Less dramatic than the original, this story still builds nicely and creates a fuller sense of the alternate life of the cats. Sorra's single- and double-page oil scenes, dark in tone, have the look of some animated films, with square-faced, flat-figured humans and almost stern-looking cats. The somber, shadowy views befit the nighttime scenario. A seasoned storyteller, Shepard retains the basic scheme and a bit of wording from Jacobs, crafting a smooth narrative that will please listeners, storytellers, and readers. A prefatory note promises a reader's theater script and background information on the story at his very substantial Web site.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442412569
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 1/19/2010
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 755,274
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Aaron Shepard has been fascinated by this story since childhood. He is the author of many folktales, including The Sea King's Daughter: A Russian Legend, The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, The Maiden of Northland: A Hero Tale of Finland, and most recently, The Princess Mouse: A Tale of Finland. He lives in the Los Angeles area.

Kristin Sorra has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember. She is also the illustrator of The Three Billygoats Gruff and Mean Calypso Joe by Cathrene Valente Youngquist and currently lives in New York with her husband, a fellow artist. Kristin has no cats, but she does have a dog named Desi who purrs in his sleep.

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Read an Excerpt

One night Peter couldn't sleep. He tossed and he turned and at last got up to make himself some tea. But when he glanced out his window, he saw the windows of the church ablaze with light.

"What in the world . . . ?" muttered Peter. "There shouldn't be anyone there, this time of night. And how'd they get in, anyway?"

Peter pulled on a coat, crossed the yard, and quietly unlocked the back door. As he crept through the vestry, he heard a sound from the church. Meow, meow . . . .

"Sounds like a cat," murmured Peter. "But I never knew a cat to light a candle."

He peered around the curtain hung at the church entrance, and what he saw made him gasp. There was not one cat, but hundreds of cats, of every size and coloring. They filled the pews, and all of them sat upright just like people.

On the steps to the altar, a big black cat-the biggest cat Peter had ever seen-was kneeling with his head bowed. Standing above him with paws upraised was a black cat in bishop's robes, intoning, "Meow, meow . . . ."

An altar kitten approached with a velvet pillow on which lay a small golden crown. The bishop lifted the crown and solemnly placed it on the kneeling cat's head.

The church exploded with cries of Meow, meow! Peter didn't wait to see more. He raced through the vestry and back to his cottage, where he jumped into bed and stayed trembling under the covers till morning.

Bright and early, Peter was over to see Father Allen. The priest was reading in the conservatory, his black cat Tom curled up on his lap.

"Good morning, Peter," said the priest. "What brings you here so early?"

"Father Allen, I came to tell you about something terribly weird in the church last night. I saw these lights and I went over to check, and I heard a meow-"

"Meow," said the priest's cat, Tom.

"Yes, just like that," said Peter. "And when I looked, there were hundreds of cats in the church. And there was this one big black cat, and he was kneeling in front, and their bishop was crowning him-"

Father Allen was looking at him sternly. "Peter, do you remember what I told you about wild stories?"

"Of course I do, Father."

"Then let's have no more of this, all right?"

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