But Who Will Bell the Cats?



Fable retold with fabulous artwork and an updated twist.

What parents need to know

Educational value

This is a pleasant, entertaining introduction to one of Aesop's fables, and therefore to the rest of his work. Also,  the unique artwork will inspire readers to think creatively about illustrations and the fun of building sets. 

Positive messages

The bat and mouse work together to make, and execute, a plan to improve their plight. The princess is kind to them, which is part of the joy of the solution.

Positive role models

The mouse is very resourceful and thoughtful. The princess is kind. The cats, while not truly mean adversaries -- only mischievous -- all deserve bells around their necks.

Violence & scariness

A few actions are more mean than violent, and not really graphically portrayed. The cats catch the mouse and play ping pong with him, use him as a puck in a hockey game, and nearly bake both the mouse and the bat in birthday pies.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this story is based on one of Aesop's fables. This retelling includes princesses and castles as well as cats and mice. 

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

In order to improve their lives, mouse and bat are trying to outwit the cats who live upstairs with the princess in comfort and luxury. One plan after another fails until finally the princess pitches in to help, proving it sometimes takes more than bravery and wit to solve a problem.

Is it any good?


The illustrations in this book make it a real keeper. Readers of all ages will find the artwork both captivating and original. And the story is a classic.  A slightly altered version of one of Aesop's fables, it's updated by the addition of the princess, her castle, and an upstairs/downstairs scenario that includes mischievous and pampered pool-playing cats and a game of hockey. 

The artwork is intriguing, and the idea behind it is uniquely creative. Each colorfully ornate page is a photograph of an actual set built by von Buhler out of wood and plaster, and filled with miniature props. The characters are painted on paper, cut out, and placed in the scenes that she built.

Families can talk about...

  • What does it mean "to bell the cat"? Why will that solve the problem the mouse and bat are having? How did the princess help?

  • Some of the pages are split into two levels. What does that say about the way the cats lived versus how the mouse and bat lived? Do you think that was fair? How would you change it?

  • The princess was kind to the mouse and bat.  How did that help them?

Book details

Author:Cynthia von Buhler
Illustrator:Cynthia von Buhler
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:September 7, 2009
Number of pages:32
Publisher's recommended age(s):3 - 7
Read aloud:5
Read alone:7

This review of But Who Will Bell the Cats? was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love cats and mice

External sites

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 10 years old April 15, 2011

the mouse and bat adventures

i think that this book is good because the mouse was smart to give the bells to the girl to put on the cats
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?
Thanks – we appreciate your feedback!

Special Needs Guide