STARRED REVIEW
September 09, 2014

Treading on soft paws in the Middle East

By Deborah Ellis
Review by

There’s something about cats. In 2010, Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott and Josée Bisaillon showed the Nazi Kristallnacht riots from the point of view of an alley cat. Before that, The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse and Wendy Watson told how stray cats distracted Nazi dogs, allowing food to be smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto. And now there’s Clare, a cat who sees the contemporary Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a unique point of view.

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There’s something about cats. In 2010, Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott and Josée Bisaillon showed the Nazi Kristallnacht riots from the point of view of an alley cat. Before that, The Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse and Wendy Watson told how stray cats distracted Nazi dogs, allowing food to be smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto. And now there’s Clare, a cat who sees the contemporary Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a unique point of view.

Clare wasn’t always a cat: Once she was an American eighth grader, busily avoiding detentions and making fun of her new teacher. After she’s killed in an accident, Clare finds herself transformed into a cat living in occupied territory on Israel’s West Bank. Running from a hissing tom one day, Clare flees to a seemingly abandoned Palestinian house where two Israeli soldiers have set up a temporary spy headquarters. But a scared, possibly autistic boy is hiding in the house . . . and violence outside seems imminent.

Deborah Ellis, author of Breadwinner and other middle grade books set in the world’s most contentious battle zones, alternates between Clare’s current situation and her past reflections. Clare can’t go back and be a better sister and student—or solve the Middle East’s deeply entrenched problems—but maybe she can help fix just one moment.

Don’t be put off by this book’s unusual premise. The Cat at the Wall is a sensitive, deceptively simple tale of war, bullying and tempered hope.

 

Jill Ratzan reviews for School Library Journal and works as a school librarian at a small independent school in New Jersey.

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The Cat at the Wall

The Cat at the Wall

By Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books
ISBN 9781554984916

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