The Cat at the Wall

144p. House of Anansi/Groundwood. Sept. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781554984916.
Gr 5 Up—Clare was a girl from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. At 13, she dies and finds herself transformed into a cat, living in Bethlehem, Israel. As a girl, she always wanted to be the center of attention, so being an ignored stray seems cruel. She follows two Israeli soldiers into a seemingly empty house on the West Bank. As the situation escalates with the discovery of a young Palestinian boy, Clare reflects on her actions during her last year of life as a human. Set on Israel's West Bank, the harsh reality of the story is tempered by the first-person narration of a cat who understands all languages. Ellis is neutral; she doesn't take sides, nor does she attempt to explain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, the miscommunication and actions of the individual characters are examined. The characters' complexities are slowly revealed, adding layers to the story. Readers are plunged into the narrative, in the same way Clare must face her new feline life. The narrative alternates between the present on the West Bank and flashbacks to Clare's life as a human. The pacing is appropriately measured, and the setting is vividly described—concisely but evocatively conveying tension, unease, and instability. Although slightly homiletical, the moral of personal responsibility is wrapped in a touching, unforgettable story. It is an excellent choice for book clubs and classroom use, and will easily evoke discussion.—Amy Seto Musser, Denver Public Library
In this fable-esque narrative, a spoiled American bully is reincarnated as a cat in the West Bank where she witnesses a conflict that unfolds when two Israeli soldiers occupy a presumed-empty Palestinian house in which a little boy hides. Flashbacks to the cat's human life distract from the compelling, provocative central plot. The thoughtful exploration of an untenable situation provides ample discussion fodder.

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