This charming vignette is based on a true story, which encourages readers to suspend disbelief to enjoy a quirky plot and wonderful illustrations.
Although populated by a Jewish man and a cat with a Yiddish name, it is not really a Jewish tale. Moshe is a composer who walks to hear the sounds of his city for his music. One day he rescues a stray kitten, ketzel in Yiddish, which becomes the animal’s name. The animal responds to the different emotions in the composer’s musical scores. Moshe decides to enter a musical contest that seeks a beautiful composition in only sixty seconds. He cannot come up with an idea. The cat walks across the keys, creating a magnificent theme. Moshe works on this theme, submits it to the contest judges, wins a special mention and hears it played by a young girl in the concert hall where he sits with his cat. When Ketzel’s name is called out, the cat meows. The laughing
audience brings the angry stage manager to the front lights to ask that the cat go. Then Moshe declares the cat is the composer; the two take a bow with the pianist. The piece is played in concerts around the world, garnering the kitten royalties!
Love, caring, music, a philosophy of listening, and the Peabody Conservatory mesh with outstanding illustrations which pivot points of view as they capture faces and mobile actions in a delicious read. Recommended for the picture book crowd and cat lovers of all ages.
Ellen G. Cole, a retired librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.