When you head to the library or bookstore this weekend with the kiddos, keep an eye out for The Beckoning Cat by Koko Nishizuka and illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger.
The Beckoning Cat is based on a Japanese folktale and explains a popular piece of Japanese culture. I received two beckoning cats from students who studied in Japan and was told they were for “good luck.” And here’s the story behind that assertion. A young boy, Yohei, can’t sell his fish because he has to stay home with his sick father. Without the money Yohei cannot buy food or medicine. The night before he befriended a cat and, unbeknownst to him, the cat took it upon himself to help Yohei in return. First one visitor then another come to buy fish at the house. Each visitor comments on the cat and how it led them here to buy fish. They note that the cat held up a paw as if to lead them on to the house and meowed. In this way the boy was able to stay near his father and earn money for his medicine. The cat stayed with Yohei and visitors came from far away just to see the cat that had such an unusual way of inviting customers.
Today if you visit Japan and see a porcelain cat in the window of a Japanese retailer with one paw held up you know it is the beckoning cat inviting you to come inside. It is a symbol of good luck. A fun story with a wider connection. Perhaps even more enjoyable if you own a cat and know how unlikely and amazing it would be to meet a cat with such selflessness and generosity.