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4.1 7
by Tor Seidler, Eric Beddows (Illustrator)

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Tor Seidler's sweet and humorous story about Toes, the runt of a litter of cats who is born with seven toes on each paw.

Intelligent and aptly named, Toes has seven toes on each foot. The other kittens, fearing his condition might be contagious, refuse to play with him. So one night, a lonely Toes runs away. He takes refuge in a strange basement, where a


Tor Seidler's sweet and humorous story about Toes, the runt of a litter of cats who is born with seven toes on each paw.

Intelligent and aptly named, Toes has seven toes on each foot. The other kittens, fearing his condition might be contagious, refuse to play with him. So one night, a lonely Toes runs away. He takes refuge in a strange basement, where a struggling musician named Sebastian eventually finds him. As he grapples with his own insecurities as a violinist, Sebastian learns from Toes that the most beautiful duet can be the one made by true friendship.

National Book Award finalist Tor Seidler once again introduces an endearing animal who will live in readers' hearts forever.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A cat, spurned for his unique seven toes per paw, at last finds a home. "Readers will likely happily suspend disbelief at the music-loving cat's extraordinary intelligence-and the measures he takes to help out his new owner," wrote PW. Ages 8-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Named for the seven digits on each of his four feet, Toes is a highly intelligent kitten, and so different from his siblings that they reject him. His mother dies mysteriously, and he flees the house to escape his siblings' torments. After a grim, lonely period trapped in a basement, he moves in with a sad violinist who auditioned for the local orchestra several times but was not accepted. Their friendship develops and culminates in Toe's act of great heroism: he makes a dangerous journey to Philharmonic Hall, steals the conductor's prized baton, and leads the woman back to Sebastian's home, where she hears him play and offers him a job. Now old and near death, and not wanting his human friend "to find his corpse and get depressed," Toes drags himself to his mother's grave and dies on his seventh birthday. Small, black-and-white sketches of the cat in different poses begin each chapter. Unfortunately, this lugubrious fantasy requires a huge suspension of disbelief and a willingness to overlook internal inconsistencies and unexplained plot aspects (cats and mice can converse, but birds cannot; Toes is unable to read words but "thanks to all the sports he'd watched" he understands written birth and death dates; no explanation is given for why all of the cats in the story die at age five to seven). Despite much drama and pathos, Toes keeps his distance and readers will find him difficult to cuddle up to.-Susan Patron, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One of a litter of four, Toes the cat is born black with seven toes on each paw, whereas the other three are spotted or striped and have the normal number of digits. Their mother dies soon after they're weaned and Toes witnesses her burial. His siblings subsequently ostracize him because he tells them what he's seen, because of his polydactyl paws, and mostly because he's many times smarter than they. He begins learning to understand human words, enjoying classical music, and doing "tricks." One night, because of the treachery of his siblings, he's shut out of the house. He stumbles into another basement and is trapped. Kept alive by a deal struck with mice, he isn't discovered until the next spring. Sebastian, a struggling fiddle player who wants to play with the Philharmonic, adopts Toes, and they spend several happy years together. It's only with Toes's help that Sebastian finally achieves his goal and comes out of his shell. Seidler, writing in his Wainscott Weasel mode, has delivered an excellent, if melancholy, realistic story of a special friendship. Young cat lovers will be in heaven. (Fiction. 9-15)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.35(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

"Where are they?" chimed Melissa and Tucker, jostling into the house behind their parents.

"Well," Mr. McDonahue said, "Fatima's been nursing them behind the hot-water heater."

Mrs. McDonahue said, "Take your bags up first, please," but Mr. McDonahue's voice apparently penetrated better, for the two kids dropped their suitcases and hurtled toward the kitchen. John, their older brother, was dying to do likewise. As of tomorrow, how-ever, he would be a sophomore in high school, which seemed a little old for getting gushy over a bunch of kittens. Luckily, his parents exchanged a smile and traipsed after the younger kids, giving John the all-clear to dump his bag and follow.

In the sunlit kitchen Tucker already had a fur ball in either hand—one black with white stockings, the other nearly pure white—while Melissa had a pure-black one. John ducked into the utility room and emerged with one that was mottled black and white.

"They're so cute," Melissa cooed, stroking hers. "Have you named them yet?"

"We waited for you," Mrs. McDonahue said.

"Fact is," Mr. McDonahue said, "we've hardly seen hide nor hair of them."

"We can keep them, right?" Tucker pleaded.

"Please," Melissa said.

"I suppose, if everybody helps out," Mrs. McDonahue said.

"Yes!" cried Tucker.

"That one's got to be Socks," John said, pointing at the white-stockinged kitten.

"Yours looks like a Melissa," Tucker told his brother.

"No way," said the human Melissa.

"How about Labor Day then? Seeing as it's Labor Day."

"That's not a cat name," Melissa said contemptuously. "Besides, they were born right after we left for camp, right?"

"August fifth," Mrs. McDonahue said. "How about Spots?"

"Socks and Spots," Tucker said, grinning.

"That white one looks like a Fergie," Melissa said.

John checked the kitten in question and pronounced it a boy.

"Ferdinand then," Melissa said. "And this one's... eeek!"

Melissa dropped the black kitten onto the linoleum floor.

"What is it, sweetie?" Mrs. McDonahue asked.

"His paws!"

Mr. McDonahue picked up the stunned kitten.

"I'll be darned. We had cats on the farm with six toes, but this little guy's got seven!"

"Really?" said John, trading kittens with his father. "Wow! Seven on every paw."

"Guess he'll have to be Toes," Mrs. McDonahue said.

"Once our science club starts meeting," John said, "can I take him to show Dr. Medlicott?"

"I don't see why not," Mrs. McDonahue said. "But where's Fatima? She hasn't let them wander two feet away from her for a month."

Melissa opened the back door, which had a little cat door in the bottom, and called out into the fenced-in backyard: "Fattie, we're home!"

But Fatima didn't come.

"Maybe she got stuck up in that tree again," Melissa said, stepping out onto the patio.

It was a cool afternoon but fairly warm in the sun. However, Fatima wasn't sunning herself on her favorite flagstone. Nor was she up in the maple tree. Rejoining the others in the kitchen, Melissa speculated that Fatima might be off sulking, jealous of all the attention the kittens were getting.

"I doubt that," Mrs. McDonahue said. "Now, seriously, kids, take your things up to your rooms."

She and Mr. McDonahue, who'd gotten up early to drive to Camp Rokokoma, soon went upstairs to their own room.

"There you are, Fattie," Mrs. McDonahue said, seeing Fatima curled up on the foot of their bed.

But Fatima didn't raise her head. Mrs. McDonahue went over and stroked her.

"Good God," she whispered.

"What is it?" Mr. McDonahue said.

"She's cold as a stone."


Mr. McDonahue came over and felt the cat. "My God. She was fine this morning."

"I don't understand it," Mrs. McDonahue said, tears springing into her eyes. "She was only five years old."

"Poor gal."

Mrs. McDonahue yanked a tissue from the box on the night table and blew her nose. "You know, her mother died young. Remember the funny little man at the animal shelter? With the pink-tinted glasses?"

"That's right. Weak heart, he said."

While Mrs. McDonahue pulled out a second tissue to dab her eyes, Mr. McDonahue gave his a quick wipe with his sleeve.

"It's amazing, when you think about it," Mrs. McDonahue said. "She lasted just long enough so the kittens could get along without her."

"She was a trouper. I bet she came up here so they wouldn't have to see her this way."

"Maybe the kids shouldn't either. We could pretend she ran away."

But Mr. McDonahue had grown up on a farm, where you learned early on that death is part of life—a lesson city kids like theirs often missed out on.

Of course, there were tears. Melissa, whose bed Fatima had favored, was particularly distraught. So as soon as possible Mrs. McDonahue shepherded everyone back down to the kitchen and the more cheerful sight of the kittens.

"Does this mean these cuties will die young, too?" Melissa said, scooping Socks up off the kitchen floor.

"They probably have defective genes," John said gloomily.

"Defective or not, they look mighty hungry," Mr. McDonahue said. "Would the pet store be open on Labor Day?"

"The whole mall's open," said Mrs. McDonahue.

Soon after she and Mr. McDonahue had taken off for Camp Rokokoma that morning, Fatima had informed her kittens that she, too,was setting off on a journey. But that didn't keep the kittens from starting to meow for her now. They were still at it when Mr. McDonahue returned from the pet store, and they quieted down only when bowls of warm formula and wet food appeared on a piece of newspaper in a corner of the kitchen.

Till now the kittens had only sucked milk out of their mother, but it didn't take them long to master this new way of eating. After their first solid meal they started yawning and tottered off into the dim utility room. As they made their way toward the hot-water heater, they spotted...

Toes. Copyright © by Tor Seidler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Born in Littleton, New Hampshire, Tor Seidler grew up in Vermont and later, Seattle, Washington, in both of which places his parents were involved in the theater. Encouraged by his family's love of the arts, Mr. Seidler studied English literature at Stanford University, and at the age of twenty-seven his first book, The Dulcimer Boy, was published, launching his celebrated career as a writer.

Over the past twenty years, Mr. Seidler has become one of the most important voices in children's fiction with such classics as, A Rat's Tale, The Wainscott Weasel, an ALA Notable Book, Terpin, and Mean Margaret, which was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He currently lives in New York City.

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Toes 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is by far my favorit book it is funny eciting sad and all together fabulus this intelegent cat gets into alot of adventers you wouid love it know mater how old or yonge you are
Guest More than 1 year ago
My grand daughter and I enjoyed this book together. It presents many opportunities for discussion of friendship and survival. Toes is an unusual cat. Not only does he have more toes than usual, he has many abilities that are quite insightful and human-like. Although there are sad parts, they added to the realism of the book. We could believe that there might really be such an unusually talented, perceptive cat as Toes. This is a good book for the middle years chapter reader or to share with an intermediate age child.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, Toes is such a smart cat and he helps his owner. It's sad the way he's treated and the ending. It is a great book about friendship (sniffle, sniffle). I like the companionship between Toes and his owner. I think this book is great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Toes by Lars Seidler is about a black cat who was born with seven toes on each paw making him very different from the rest of his family. Toes was different in more ways than his toes. He liked to watch TV and became very smart. He enjoyed living with the McDonahues until an unfortunate event sent him out into the world and into a new adventure. The book teaches you not to give up and to keep trying. And that you can find friends anywhere. There are some sad parts but all the girls in our troop really liked reading Toes and could not put it down. This book is a 5th grade reading level and there are some really hard words. Even the moms did not know some of the music terms. We definitely recommend this book because we all liked it and our troop has all different reading levels and interests. Our next book review will be Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is poorly written for adults and kids, and is very depressing. I found it to be disturbing, and can only imagine the trauma it would cause kids. If you want to read books about smart and clever animals, read the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Stay away from this book!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Toes is a great story for young musicians and catlovers. I really liked it and it is on my favoritelist! This is an adorable, touching, great story! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!