I’ve been a fan of Newbery winner Cynthia Rylant’s books for a long time. Perhaps my favorites of her books are Cat Heaven and Dog Heaven, two books which deserve to be forever-more classics. Cat Heaven was published a dozen years ago by Scholastic, and although it is a children’s book it can be just as consoling for adults who have lost a beloved cat. I have found comfort more than once reading its bright and joyful pages.
I have lost many cats over the years, including little outdoor strays I remember living in our garage when I was very, very young and the pedigreed Siamese my sisters and I won for our paintings when I was seven. Then there were much-loved Danny, kind Sylvester, talkative Ming Tu, saint Kitty, most-favorite Scout, faithful Lucy, stern and motherly Emily and her adopted daughter Orly, devoted-to-each-other Morgen and Thea, shy Mousie, wise Alyosha, moody Minka and, most recently, sassy Sophie. Sophie, so tiny as a kitten she looked like a little rat, grew up to be large and lovely and lived to be 17. Each one a distinctive being – I miss them all.
For anyone who has had a cat that died, Rylant has written a sweet description of the heaven one hopes, and perhaps believes, is awaiting our cats. It is beautifully written, in rhyme. Rylant is a self-taught artist. While her charming illustrations have reportedly been greatly influenced by the folk-style paintings of Grandma Moses, clearly they express the joyful message of her story in her own colorful and energetic style.
I am glad this book was created. It’s special.