The Cat Who Walked Across France

Book review by
Marigny Dupuy, Common Sense Media
The Cat Who Walked Across France Book Poster Image
Kids will cheer cat on as he makes his way home.

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

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in addition to the picaresque aspect of this cat's tale, the story explores the sometimes confounding, mysterious impulse of animals (and by extension, humans) to return to the place of their birth or childhood.

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What's the story?

The cat of the title lives with an old woman in a stone house by the edge of the sea in southern France. When the woman dies, the cat and all of her belongings are shipped north to where the woman was born. A map on the back cover shows that they had been living on the Mediterranean in St. Tropez and that the cat was shipped north past Paris to Rouen.

The cat?s longing to be home is so strong that he sets out on a long, solitary trek across France. He travels through cities and in the countryside, occasionally encountering kindhearted people, but no one takes him in. His strong instincts and memories of life by the sea draw him on toward the south. He makes it back home at last to the stone house at the edge of the sea. Thin but healthy, he is taken in by the children who have moved into the house.

Is it any good?

The story's emotional range is wide. From the cat's contentment in his home by the sea with the old woman, to his loss of both woman and home, and then to his sometimes harrowing experiences as he travels across France, and finally the intense pleasure of finding his home welcoming once again, the reader is by the cat's side for it all. Reading stories is for children, like adults, a way to experience life and feelings that might not be available to us otherwise. This story has much to offer in that regard.

With full-color paintings in beautifully bold Mediterranean hues, the contrast between the huge expanse of the country with the smallness of the cat emphasizes the power of a strong spirit in search of its proper place. For the determined cat there is a tremendous difference between home and not home, one worth risking everything for. After his long trip, readers will share his relief and satisfaction to be home again.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the cat's compelling desire to return home. Do you think he's homesick for the place he lived, or does he really miss the old woman? Or is it both?

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