22 November 2010

Review: The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar

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).

The Rabbi's Cat at Powell's
The Rabbi's Cat at Book Depository
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Published by Pantheon Books, 2005
ISBN-13: 9780375422812
YTD: 104
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 11/22/10, 8:23 AM  

Aww. I felt bad for the poor kitty in the panel that I read. So cynical, that rabbi. Right about the cat still talking, but cut it a little slack.

Eva 11/22/10, 9:25 AM  

I know I already told you this on Twitter, but great post! :) I'm reading a nonfiction book about Hasidic Jewish girls in Brooklyn right now, so it'll be really neat to have a bit of a tie in. And I haven't read a graphic novel in far too long!

Jen - devourer of books 11/22/10, 10:14 AM  

Hmm, I wonder if my library has this, it sounds really interesting!

Jenn's Bookshelves 11/22/10, 10:35 AM  

This does sound like quite the interesting book! I'll have to check it out!

Anonymous,  11/22/10, 10:49 AM  

What a great graphic novel, I love this type of stuff. The artwork looks gorgeous.


Dorte H 11/22/10, 11:26 AM  

This one sounds wonderful. I added it to my wish list immediately.

Anonymous,  11/22/10, 12:08 PM  

Great review, I don't really read graphic novels but I want to read this one. It sounds wonderful.

Margot 11/22/10, 12:30 PM  

I've been looking for another really good graphic novel. This one promises a fun experience. Love the two panels.

Anonymous,  11/22/10, 12:50 PM  

This sounds like a wonderful book! I hope I manage to find a copy (it somehow looks like it might not be all that common here, but maybe I'm mistaken).

bermudaonion 11/22/10, 12:52 PM  

That's just the kind of graphic novel I love.

Unknown 11/22/10, 1:21 PM  

This sounds like a wonderful book! A snarky cat is just up my alley and I like learning about Jewish people and their lives since my husband is Jewish.

Thanks for a terrific post!
~ Amy

Sandy Nawrot 11/22/10, 2:26 PM  

OMG this sounds wonderful! And I have been on a graphic novel binge lately too. And of course, I do appreciate anyone who has a sense of the cat personality, as I live with a mess of them swirling at my feet.

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