In 1930s Algeria there lives a widowed rabbi, his beautiful daughter, and a cat. The cat is well loved but is constantly annoyed by the family parrot, who never shuts up. Out of frustration, he eats the bird, thereby gaining the gift of speech.
The cat has a biting sense of humor and is more worldly than the rabbi. Together they discuss Jewish law and customs, learn the truth about the rabbi's students, and help each other through rough times. Later, they travel to Paris and discover the world of secular Jews, which leaves them questioning their life at home.
Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat will have you laughing out loud at the snarky cat and the kindly rabbi. The cat's sharp intellect and discussions with the rabbi raise respectful questions about Jewish life in North Africa and in Paris before the war. Smart, funny, and surprisingly tender, The Rabbi's Cat is not a religious testament but the story of one family faced with a changing world.
The drawings are gorgeous, richly colored, and wonderfully expressive. Here are two scans (click to enlarge and then enlarge again to read). The first one is soon after the cat has gained the power of speech. The second is a story three Jewish girls are telling about a local Jewish hero. Note that the humor is for adults.
The Rabbi's Cat was the winner of the Jury Prize at Angouleme. For more on Joann Sfar, visit his website (which is in both French and English).
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Published by Pantheon Books, 2005
Source: Bought (see review policy)
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