The Beckoning Cat: Based on a Japanese Folktale


This lushly illustrated picture book, based on a Japanese folktale, reveals the story behind the beckoning cat, a good-luck figure found today in many Asian stores and restaurants.

A long time ago in a village by the sea, a mud-covered white cat appeared on Yohei's doorstep. Yohei was very poor, but he welcomed the stray and shared his dinner with her before she disappeared. Later, when the Yohei's father grew ill, the boy became desperate-how...
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This lushly illustrated picture book, based on a Japanese folktale, reveals the story behind the beckoning cat, a good-luck figure found today in many Asian stores and restaurants.

A long time ago in a village by the sea, a mud-covered white cat appeared on Yohei's doorstep. Yohei was very poor, but he welcomed the stray and shared his dinner with her before she disappeared. Later, when the Yohei's father grew ill, the boy became desperate-how could he work if he had to stay at home to care for his father? But the little white cat remembered Yohei's generosity and returned, bringing help with a wave of her paw.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Nishizuka's engaging debut recounts a folktale about a good-luck symbol in Japan. Young Yohei lives by the sea with his sick father, eking out a meager income by selling fish door-to-door. When a wet cat appears at their door, he welcomes her and, despite his own hunger, shares his modest dinner. Soon after, his father grows too sick to be left alone, and Yohei despairs: how can he sell fish and still care for him? Buyers begin appearing as if by magic, lured by a beckoning white cat. "She's calling customers on your behalf!" one client declares. "I have never heard of a cat repaying a kindness." The father recovers, the boy prospers and the "beckoning cat" becomes a popular symbol for merchants. Litzinger's (The Animals Watched ) full-bleed pictures-a highly tactile mix of watercolor, colored pencil, ink and gouache-combine comfortably rounded, stylized forms and a gently shaded palette to evoke a contemplative mood. As the story progresses, the cat-not realistically drawn to begin with-increasingly resembles its real-life porcelain incarnations, seated, with an oversize head, its right front paw raised in greeting. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
Yohei was a young boy living in Japan a long time ago He gathered fish in buckets and sold them throughout the day to earn enough to take care of himself and his sick father, but he was still very poor. One evening Yohei heard a tap at his door and opened it to find a cat shivering in the rain. Yohei invited the muddy cat inside. He washed her and shared his meager meal with her. The cat smiled and purred, but the next morning she was gone. Three days later, Yohei's father became so ill that Yohei needed to stay home to care for him. He was worried that his fish would spoil. He was surprised when a woman knocked on his door to buy fish. An old man came soon after and then others appeared. Yohei sold all of his fish quickly. He discovered that the cat had been beckoning people to come to his house. The cat stayed with Yohei and continued to invite customers to purchase his fish. People were so impressed with this cat that they made good luck cats of porcelain, each holding up one paw in beckoning. These ceramic cats can still be seen in Japan and in Asian restaurants around the world. Pretty pastel pictures, with many circular forms, add charm to this retelling of a popular Japanese folktale. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

K-Gr 2

A boy who spends his days selling fish door-to-door finds a wet white cat in the rain. He takes the animal in and offers her food from his own plate even though he doesn't have much to eat. When his father becomes ill, the child can no longer peddle his fish. He is surprised to find that the cat is beckoning customers to his door. Yohei's father gets well, and the boy has so many customers that he opens a shop. On the final spread, the author explains that this is how the beckoning cat became a good-luck symbol in Japan. This charming story is complemented by lovely watercolor, gouache, pencil, and ink illustrations done in soft muted colors and a whimsical style. The cat has pink ears and often smiles. Many readers will delight in this story of kindness and generosity rewarded.-Mari Pongkhamsing, St. Perpetua School, Lafayette, CA

Kirkus Reviews
A fetching feline rewards an act of kindness in this fresh rendition of a Japanese folktale. Yohei, a poor boy who sells fish door-to-door, works hard to buy medicine for his sick father. One rainy night a white cat appears at his door. Yohei dries her and shares his meager meal. While Yohei wonders how he can sell fish and still care for his father, villagers start arriving at his home to buy fish saying they followed the white cat who beckoned them with her paw. People come from afar to see Yohei's cat, and soon his father improves, his business prospers and the beckoning white cat becomes a symbol of good luck in Japan. Naif illustrations rendered in watercolor, colored pencil and gouache rely on simple, rounded shapes and pastel hues and feature Yohei and his cat in tableaux capturing the bygone innocence of rural Japan. Appropriately, a winsome and wise white cat beckons from various angles and poses, drawing readers from page to page just as she cleverly lures customers to Yohei's door. A beguiling tale. (Picture book/folktale. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823420513
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/15/2009
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 687,727
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Koko Nishizuka was born in Shiroi, Japan, and has lived in the United States since 1986. She has worked for several Japanese and American organizations in New York and Tokyo. This is her first children's book. She lives in New York.

Rosanne Litzinger is a celebrated illustrator of children's books. Publishers Weekly has called her artwork "dreamy" and "magical." She lives in Southern California.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A complete rip-off of the Award winning Lucky Cat by Sunny Seki

    They might as well have called this one "The Copy Cat." I'd stay clear of this unless the lessons I was trying to teach my child was how to exploit the works of others for my financial profit. The story has been tweaked a bit, but it seems they copied Sunny's real work of art and decided to take the easy way towards creativity. Mr. Seki actually wrote and illustrated each panel by hand in true artistic fashion. This copy cat lacks any of that detail or artistry.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 10, 2009

    The Beckoning Cat is an ancient Japanese tale, on which no modern author has a monopoly. Currently two Japanese writers, Nishizuka and Seki, have given us charming versions. We should be grateful for both.

    It's unfortunate that this friendly and welcoming cat should have provoked controversy. The traditional folk-tale has been told often in the past and will be re-told often in the future. No one has "copied". Indeed, a review of the publishing history shows that Nishizuka's manuscript was submitted before Seki's delightful work appeared. Western readers should be pleased by two authentic but different versions of a story that has charmed Japan for centuries.

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  • Posted November 1, 2009

    A poor interpretation of a renowned Japanese folktale.

    This book is a pathetic attempt to imitate the book "The Tail Of The Lucky Cat" by Sunny Seki. Do not waste your time or money on something so mediocre. Mr. Seki's version of this Japanese folktale is far superior.

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