So this is a roundup of various picture books featuring cats (and some mice) that I loved and therefore want to share with everyone because of the joy of reading children’s literature as an adult. (See LitHub for a review of Wild Things also.)
First on the list is The White Cat and the Monk, which has been on my to-read list for a while. It recently made its way back into my periphery and so I decided to finally scratch one title off that ever-growing list and bring it home.
The White Cat and the Monk is one of many retellings of a poem titled Pangur Bán, penned anonymously sometime in the 9th c. in Old Irish. It’s a meditation on the relationship between the white cat and the scholar monk and how their daily activities parallel each other despite being so disparate.
My first exposure to the book was through a review on BrainPickings, which made me want to pick it up immediately, what with the sumptuous illustrations and glowing review (and of course, let’s not kid ourselves: the cat), and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The pace is slow, but in a measured way, such that even though by the end of the poem we haven’t strayed far from the room in which the monk resides, the reader is still left with a sense of accomplishment. Not much that is tangible has been completed perhaps, but there is a sense that something has been accomplished, and that we now in a sense have a greater understanding of the world at large.
In honour of Canada 150, we’re rounding out the year with a celebration of Canadian literature. On November 25th, the Vaughan Public Libraries is excited to be hosting acclaimed Canadian author Heather O’Neill as part of our Vaughan Loves Reading series. You might recognize O’Neill’s name from her multiple Scotiabank Giller Prize nominations, or her inclusion on Indigo’s Best Books of 2017 list, with The Lonely Hearts Hotel coming in at number four.
I recently had the opportunity to read O’Neill’s newest novel, and it didn’t disappoint. Like her past works, The Lonely Hearts Hotel isn’t always an easy read. There’s abuse, addiction, questionable sexual encounters—but there’s also love, whimsy, and above all, enduring optimism. It’s a story of love flourishing in the seedy underworld of 1930s Montreal.
Although the book is about both Rose and Pierrot, it’s Rose who is the heart of the story. She is a character just buzzing with energy—you half expect her to somersault off the page into your living room as part of one of her acts. Pierrot is less dynamic than Rose, but he’s affable enough to charm his own way around Montreal. O’Neill creates characters who do terrible things without ever losing their innocence, and so you’re always rooting for them to make it through whatever predicament they’ve gotten themselves into. O’Neill’s historic Montreal is alive as well, the chill of a Canadian winter almost tangible through the writing. The story will fully transport you to another time in our country’s history.
If you’re a fan of literature, or want to support the Canadian literary community, come check out Vaughan Loves Reading at the Bathurst Clark Library on Saturday November 25th, from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. Heather O’Neill will be giving a talk on her experience as a Canadian writer, and we’ll also be unveiling an anthology curated by local authors titled Voices of Vaughan. We’ll also be serving wine and cheese! So come have a drink, and mingle with the local literary community.
To attend Vaughan Loves Reading, please register on Eventbrite. This event is 19+.