Review By JENNIFER GANNETT
A sign displayed on the wall of our veterinarian’s office discusses what indoor cats “miss” — indoor-only cats miss out things like attacks by wild or domestic animals, being hit by vehicles, killing songbirds, abuse at human hands etc. In The Good Luck Cat, a young girl tells the story of her beloved indoor/outdoor cat, Woogie. The book plays on the myth that cats have nine lives and deftly illuminates the perils of life as an outdoor cat.
Woogie is clearly a dear and valued part of the family (an aunt seems particularly fond of petting her for luck before a bingo game), but the rapidity with which she cycles through her alleged nine lives is startling. Woogie has near-deadly encounters with birds, dogs, other cats, boys with bb guns and a busy road, as well as an interval in the family’s dryer and a hot sojourn in the trunk of a car. When Woogie disappears, the young girl is heartsick. The adults in her family tell the children that Woogie has probably used up her ninth life, but that doesn’t stop Mom from calling the shelter to check on whether a tiger cat with green eyes has been brought in, nor is the girl dissuaded from putting out food and her cat’s favorite toy, singing into the night and willing her home.
Adults will find this book interesting to contemplate on a few levels. There are few children’s picture books about modern day Native American life depicting a strong human-companion animal bond. Reading this book also highlights questions about what may be the best life for a cat. Is love enough? Reading between the lines of The Good Luck Cat, one can make a strong argument that heartfelt love for an animal also needs to be combined with safety considerations. With so many animals in need of loving homes, where does the balance lie? Is euthanasia after days, weeks or months in a shelter cage a better choice for a cat than allowing it to experience life as a beloved family member, even if that life will be markedly shortened?
Despite the complicated subject matter, this smooth, measured tale by poet Joy Harjo captivates children and been in heavy rotation in our home for a couple of months. The narrator is a kindhearted, likeable young girl who adores her cat and therefore is a character with whom many young kitty lovers can relate to. Paul Lee makes the story come alive with his realistic portrayal of Woogie’s experiences.
Ages 5 and up.