Lucky. A man, Tokuzo, watches as a little cat is injured. He doesn’t ignore it despite having little himself does all he can for the little cat. Little does he know how the cat will repay him for his kindness.
Title: The Tale of the Lucky Cat
Author: Sunny Seki
Illustrator: Sunny Seki
ISBN: 9780966943764 Language: English
Title: まねきねこのはなし ISBN: 9780966943757 Language: (bi-lingual) English / 日本語 (Japanese)
Title: 행운의 고양이 이야기 ISBN: 9780979933912 Language: (bi-lingual) English / 한국어 (Korean)
Title: Cuento de Gato del la Suerte ISBN: 9780966943795 Language: (bi-lingual) English / español (Spanish)
Themes: Japan, history, legends, courage, empathy, resilience
What’s it about?
A little cat is rescued by a young man who travels from town to town to sell his toys after he is injured by a cart. Though he has little himself, the man shares what he has with the injured cat…sadly the cat passes away. The young man continues his journey and believes he sees the cat and moves towards it – only for the mirage to have saved his life. He decides that he wants to make a toy in honor of the little cat but his efforts fail…until an old craftsman gives him some advice.
The beautiful illustrations tell the story as well as the words. This is a well paced story that demonstrates both the importance of compassion for creatures (cat) and being persistent to achieve a goal (to make the toy).
The cat dies (possibility for tears!)
I just love this book. It is a fantastic length for using with younger students – I have used with students as low as grade 1 – and they actually become invested in the young man achieving his goal. Yes, there have been tears because the cat dies (even a couple from me when I first read it!) but it all has a purpose.
A great teaching point about using this book were the connections the students made to having seen the statue toys Maneki Neko in local restaurants – this made for an excellent Text-to-World discussion. It also then opened up discussions and learning opportunities about the cat often depicted, Japanese Bobtail, and how there is some variation as to what the cat is holding – most frequently we see them holding a koban worth one ryo (this is the currency from the Edo period and was a small fortune for the time).
Another aspect that is worth incoporating in your teaching is whether it was because the cat was lucky, or if it was hard work (or a combination of the two) that allowed the Tokuzo to achieve his success. This is also a good debate topic as to whether the cat was real or imagined.
Of course, there is the history aspect as well. With references such as above it’s a good way to introduce the Edo (Tokugawa) Period to your class especially if you teach older students. A good companion text would be the longer YA novel The Peony Lantern that includes much more about the time period.
Of course, for younger learners reading tales of a traditional nature really act to spark engagement and learn about the culture and language which this book is perfect for. I recommend buying this one and having it in your classroom library – my students enjoyed going back to this one!