The best children’s books about the loving bond between people and cats

Lesléa Newman Author Of Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed
By Lesléa Newman

The Books I Picked & Why

The Cat Man of Aleppo

By Irene Latham, Karim Shamsi-Basha, Yuko Shimizu

Book cover of The Cat Man of Aleppo

Why this book?

I was so moved by this true story of Alaa, an ambulance driver who loves his city of Aleppo so much that he chooses to stay there when war breaks out. In addition to helping the people of Aleppo, Alaa helps the hundreds of cats left homeless by the war. His kindness inspires others, who volunteer and donate enough money for Alaa to build a shelter he names “The House of Cats Ernesto” in memory of a friend’s beloved cat. People who visit the shelter are so filled with hope, they donate more money and soon Alaa builds a playground for the children of Aleppo. Kindness begets kindness, and this story lifted my heart and restored my faith in people, most of whom I truly believe are innately kind.

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Picasso and Minou

By P.I. Maltbie

Book cover of Picasso and Minou

Why this book?

No one wants to buy Pablo Picasso’s sad blue paintings. Unable to feed himself or his cat, Picasso sends Minou out into the world, hoping she can find herself a meal. Minou meets some circus performers who feed her, but she doesn’t finish her food; she brings a sausage home to Picasso. Minou introduces Picasso to her new friends, who inspire him to create more joyful paintings which are purchased by an art dealer. This book is all about kindness. The circus performers kindly feed Minou, Minou kindly brings food to Picasso, and Picasso kindly paints the circus performers’ portraits in exchange for meals. This book, based on a true story, shows that cats, who are rumored to be self-centered and aloof, are really very loving, generous, and kind.

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The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street

By Ann Redisch Stampler, Francesca Carabelli

Book cover of The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street

Why this book?

I love that this book features a character who is grumpy and (at first) doesn’t like cats! Mr. Modiano thinks cats are a nuisance, but when a neighbor’s cat, Ketzie goes missing, guess who searches for her and brings her home? And guess who then adopts a cat of his own? And finally, shares a cup of tea with his neighbor who has been trying for a long time to befriend him? Many people are not fond of cats until one special feline sneaks into their heart. I love that this book shows a character’s concern for his neighbor inspires him to open his heart. And the illustrations are adorable!

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The Cat Who Went to Heaven

By Elizabeth Coatsworth, Raoul Vitale

Book cover of The Cat Who Went to Heaven

Why this book?

I have read this book at least a dozen times. First published in 1930, it has become a classic, winning the Newbery Medal (the Oscar of children’s books!) and other awards. The story, which takes place in Japan, is about a poor, humble artist, who is working on an important painting. Though he has very little money and cannot afford another mouth to feed, his housekeeper brings a little white cat home from the market. At first, the artist is disgruntled, but nevertheless, the cat becomes known as Good Fortune, and indeed, through an act of selflessness, the cat does bring good fortune to the artist. The writing style is gorgeous, and the book is an absolute pleasure to read. Very soothing and meditative. No wonder it’s become a classic!

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Cat Talk

By Patricia MacLachlan, Emily MacLachlan Charest, Barry Moser

Book cover of Cat Talk

Why this book?

This is pretty much a perfect (or should I say purr-fect?) picture book. It is a collection of 13 charming short poems, each one about a different cat, accompanied by wonderful watercolor paintings. The cats—ranging from “Sylvie the Boss” to “Romeo”—put on a good show of being independent from their humans, but the reader quickly learns otherwise. My favorite poem is about “Henry” who sleeps blissfully on his human’s wedding dress, “…the white silk gathered like a cloud/Around me.” Like the best poems, what is unsaid is just as important as what is said. Here, it is left up to the reader to imagine how the wedding dress’s owner feels upon discovering Henry’s new favorite sleeping place! Readers and cat-lovers of all ages will adore this book. 

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