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Review: The Rabbi's Cat (Joann Sfar)

Title: The Rabbi's Cat
Author: Joann Sfar
Genre: YA, Graphic Novel, International Setting
Pages: 142
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library
Challenges: Graphic Novel mini-challenge (#10), Rainbow Connection (R) POC (#10)
Summary: (from the back of the book): This book tells the wholly unique story of a rabbi, his daughter, and their talking cat--a philosopher brimming with scathing humor and surprising tenderness.

In Algeria in the 1930s, a cat belonging to a widowed rabbi and his beautiful daughter, Zlabya, eats the family parrot and gains the ability to speak. To his master's consternation, the cat immediately begins to tell lies (the first being that he didn't eat the parrot). The rabbi vows to educate him in the ways of the Torah, while the cat insists on studying the kabbalah and having a Bar Mitzvah. The consult the rabbi's rabbi, who maintains that a cat cant' be Jewish--but the cat, as always, knows better.

Zlabya falls in love with a dashing young rabbi from Paris, and soon master and cat, having overcome their shared self-pity and jealousy, are accompanying the newlyweds to France to meet Zlabya's cosmopolitan in-laws. Full of drama and adventure, their trip invited countless opportunities for the rabbi and his cat to grapple with all the important--and trivial--details of life.

Review: Hmm. The first paragraph of the plot description had me so ready for a funny book. But, I wouldn't really call this one funny. Odd, strange and fairly interesting are better descriptors. Lots of Jewish philosophy, discussion of Judaism, and deep thoughts. Maybe that's why I didn't love this book. It's not bad, it just wasn't as interesting as the other graphic novels I've read.

The drawings in this book are pretty cool though. The cat is modeled on the author's Abyssinian cat (you know the ones, they've got the skinny heads) and the elongated, exaggerated head is fun to follow through the story. In addition, I liked the cultural aspects of this book. The author includes Jews, Arabs, Paris, and Algeria, which make for a fascinating background.


Suzanne Yester said...

Someone recommended this book to me for the Graphic Novel challenge and I thought initially that it was a strange concept, but I picked it up and it is in the TBR pile. I did open it to give it a look through and chuckled quite a bit at the cat wanting to learn the Torah, and thought I may be laughing all the way through! Thanks for the heads up so I won't be disappointed!
And thanks for the nice review!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Suzanne, It is interesting so don't take it out of the TBR. I just didn't think it lived up to what I expected.