Genre: Japan / Horror / Animals
Year Published: 2002
Year Read: 2014
Publisher: Holiday House
Now, I will admit that I had actually read the popular Japanese folktale, “The Boy Who Drew Cats” before; my first exposure being to the Rabbit Ears’ version of the folktale which was narrated by William Hurt. Well, imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that there was another version of the classic Japanese folktale that was written by Margaret Hodges along with illustrations by Ari Sogabe that was just as memorable as Rabbit Ears’ version of “The Boy Who Drew Cats!”
The story starts off with a poor farmer and his wife having difficulty feeding their children. While the rest of the children can work efficiently on the farm, their youngest son was not strong and efficient in working on the farm, even though he was extremely clever. So, the parents decided to send the youngest son to a priest so he can prepare for priesthood. Unfortunately, the boy loved to draw cats, but it would always get him into trouble with the priest until one day, the priest told the boy to get out and gave him a small warning before he left:
“Avoid large places at night; keep to small.”
Disappointed, the boy wandered around town until he came to an abandoned temple that was rumored to contain a large goblin that terrorized the people of the village.
Will the boy survive the goblin’s wrath and what importance will the priest’s words have on the boy?
I have always enjoyed the story of “The Boy Who Drew Cats” and this version of the classic Japanese folktale does not disappoint me! I loved the way that Margaret Hodges retold this story as the story was full of horror that set me on the edge of my seat! I actually sympathized with the young boy in this story as his own family had to send him to a priest since they could not feed all of their children and then, the boy gets kicked out of the priest’s home since his ability to draw cats had gotten him into trouble. I was actually rooting for the boy throughout the story as I wanted him to get his happily ever after, after going through so much turmoil in his life. I also enjoyed the little author’s note at the end of the book by Margaret Hodges as she describes about where she got the inspiration to write this story and where this story originated from. Ari Sogabe’s artwork was truly gorgeous in this story and some of my favorite images were of the trees and the landscape of Japan as they look truly colorful and realistic and it really brought out the beauty of this story!
Parents should know that this story has some scary moments, including the young boy’s encounter with the goblin and that might scare young children who do not like reading about monsters. However, I will say that this version is not as graphic as the Rabbit Ears’ version, so parents might have an easier time helping their children deal with the dark nature of this story since the violence is extremely low key in this version.
Overall, “The Boy Who Drew Cats” is a fantastic story for children who enjoy reading horror stories and Japanese folktales. I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since the dark themes of this story might scare younger children.