Sun 24 Jul 2011
I mean, just look at him over there on the right. He’s not working, going to summer camp or running errands. He doesn’t even pick up after himself.
While the rest of us rush around, Vince sleeps in a sunbeam or gazes out the window. The only time he shows any enthusiasm is when he thinks we ought to feed him.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
So, I decided to put Vince on his own version of a summer reading program. After all, he’d grudgingly reviewed cat-related books for my blog before. (You can read his takes on Where is Catkin, Frankie Works the Night Shift and Raj, the Bookstore Tiger).
And goodness knows I could use the break.
In the past, I’ve succeeded in getting Vince to review books by casually leaving them around the house where I knew he’d see them.
This time, I was more direct.
I put I Am Tama, Lucky Cat (Peachtree, 2011), a Japanese folktale by Wendy Henrichs and Yoshiko Jaeggi, in front of Vince’s nose and told him to make himself useful and to make it snappy.
He ignored me and snuggled into his sunbeam.
I threatened to cut off his supply of cat treats and switch him back to dry food. But he was unimpressed.
He left the following review on my computer and promptly went back to sleep. Same sunbeam, different angle.
Take it away, Vince.
This book is about a cat named Tama. He lives in Japan where he is doted on by a poor Buddhist monk.
The monk lets Tama come in out of the cold, shares what little food he has, admires Tama’s beautiful orange-and-black markings and is happy to have the cat simply sit by him. Tama’s mere presence is enough to make the monk happy.
He never expects Tama do extra things like book reviews.
But anyhow … Tama is grateful for the monk’s care. And he wants to help the temple, which is old and run-down. Like any self-respecting cat, he catches a mouse now and then. But one day, he does something much more important.
A samurai warlord seeks shelter under a temple tree during a storm. Tama raises his right paw and welcomes him. The samurai is impressed and comes forward to greet the cat. As he does, the branch of the tree he was standing under is struck by lightning and falls, landing right where the samurai had been just a few seconds before.
It’s a near miss. And, the samurai — intelligent man that he is — recognizes that Tama’s friendliness saved his life. He thanks the cat by repairing the temple and making sure the monk, the worshippers and the cat have everything they need to be comfortable for the rest of their lives.
And, of course, Tama’s actions result in cats like him being linked to good fortune throughout Japan. You’ve probably seen a replica of Tama if you’ve ever visited a restaurant or shop that has a cat figurine with one paw raised displayed on its counter.
And, for the record, I’m not as lazy as the owner of this blog would have you believe. I’d be happy to catch a mouse if I ever saw one inside the house. And if a samurai warlord was stuck in the rain, I’d invite him inside. The right opportunity just hasn’t presented itself yet.
But now, I’ll be ready when it does.
If you’re looking for other reviews of this book, here are three to consider. Of course, I can’t endorse them fully. They are written by humans, after all. But sometimes, a cat just has to work with what’s available.