I Am Tama, Lucky Cat

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
I Am Tama, Lucky Cat Book Poster Image
Japanese legend vividly told in striking picture book.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This is a version of the Japanese legend of the Lucky Cat; the author's note provides more information about the origin of the story. Parents could use it as a way to talk about folklore and fairy tales. This story is about 350 years old. Why would such an old story still be told today?

Positive Messages

There is a message here that thinking of others -- and being friendly and kind -- can lead to big rewards.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The cat in this story is taken in by the kind monk of an impoverished temple. In return for the man's kindness, Tama gives him simple comforts like "a touch of fur to keep him warm." Later, the cat brings him an even greater gift.

Violence & Scariness

There is an image of the cat catching a mouse and a picture of "Raijin the god of thunder...[and his] lightning demon Raiju" that may frighten younger readers.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a version of the Japanese legend of the Lucky Cat that dates back about 350 years. The cat in this story is taken in by the kind monk of an impoverished temple. In return for the man's kindness, Tama gives him simple comforts like "a touch of fur to keep him warm." Later, his kindness and friendliness brings an even greater gift. There is an image of the cat catching a mouse and a picture of "Raijin the god of thunder...[and his] lightning demon Raiju" that may frighten younger readers.

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What's the story?

When a cat named Tama is found by a monk at an impoverished temple, the hungry cat lifts his arm to him in welcome. The poor man takes Tama in, and in return that cat gives him purrs, the warmth of his fur -- and a promise that "I will bring you good fortune!" This he does by lifting his arm again in greeting to a samurai passing by the temple during a storm.

Is it any good?

This story is simply told, but it can be enjoyed by kids at different ages. The older kids are, the more they will enjoy probing the meaning of the legend, and thinking about what tools the cat used to bring fortune to the temple. Even the littlest kids will love the watercolor illustrations, which include a whimsical image of the cat meditating alongside his Buddhist master to a magical picture of the improved temple toward the book's end, with cherry blossoms blowing on the visitors who've come to worship. The story may also spawn kids' interest in legends from other cultures and religions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about legends. What other folk or fairy tales do you know? Why do we continue to pass around the same stories?

  • In books and movies cats are often curious, lazy, or cunning. How is the cat in this book different? What words would you use to describe Tama?

Book details

For kids who love animal stories

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