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The Cat Who Walked Across France Hardcover – March 2, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Condense The Incredible Journey to its purest essence then add the most exquisite, vividly painted illustrations, and there you have The Cat Who Walked Across France.

A cat lives contentedly for many years in a seaside village, until his old mistress dies and he is shipped off to another town far away. Lonely and ignored, the gray kitty sets off on an odyssey, lured by memories of "the tangy smell of lemons ripening on a branch under a window at the stone house by the edge of the sea," and driven by "the taste of the salty air that blew off the water and coated the bench behind the stone house by the edge of the sea." Returning finally to his home seaport, the paw-sore old cat finds the door to his stone house still open and inviting. Readers will be pleased (and not surprised) to learn that the new residents welcome the brave and determined fellow with open arms and dishes of food.

Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben, who have teamed up on several gorgeous and award-winning picture books, including Close Your Eyes, are a creative match made in heaven. Lovely! (Ages 5 and older) --Emilie Coulter

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3--Displaced when his elderly mistress dies, a cherished pet makes a long and lonely trip through cities, towns, and the countryside to return to the seaside home he shared with her. "The cat pranced over bridges and bristled at the thundering trains that passed. At dusk he would lick the dirt from his face and paws. In his dreams he could hear the twigs snapping and the crunch of dried leaves as he circled around the stone house by the edge of the sea." Banks's account of the expedition and the longing of the unnamed feline is quiet but descriptive. Occasional dangers such as stray dogs, aggressive children, and city traffic punctuate the animal's plodding trek as he grows thin and tired, doggedly working his way across the country. Hallensleben's double-page scenes, painted in his customary broad strokes and deep palette, convey a warm but also somber sense of each place as the journey progresses. The unidentified French landmarks create a particular geography for the universally satisfying story. A map of the route taken appears on the back of the book jacket. Predictably, the house's new owners offer the feline a warm welcome. How could it be otherwise? Rich in theme and evocative in tone, the cat's quest will resonate with young readers.--Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 2
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374399689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374399689
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 0.4 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"For many years the cat had lived in the stone house by the edge of the sea . . . He chased the wind that scuttled through the garden . . . At dusk he curled up in the bend of the old woman's arm" and she scratched his ears and stroked his back. "Good kitty," she tells him, "good kitty."
When the woman dies, her belongings, along with cat, are shipped north to her childhood home. With no one there to love him, the cat decides to leave. He roams the French countryside, sleeping in barns, hunting field mice, and dodging dogs and cars in bustling, big cities. His journey takes him past the Eiffel Tower, over bridges, around castles and ruins, through storms, and into occasional danger.
Time passes. "His fur grew scruffy. Now and again he would stop to linger on a grassy bank or in the cool shade of an ancient wall." Always though he pushed on, dreaming of the stone house by the edge of the sea.
"Thin and frail" the cat finally makes his way home. As he walks up to the door of the stone house, he finds it wide open. Soon he is curled into a small ball, asleep on a couch. When he awakens he finds a boy and girl standing over him. They offer him a platter of food, fresh water, and, satisfyingly, a home.
A map of France on the book's back cover shows the cat's zigzag journey from Rouen in the north to St. Tropez in the south.
Hallensleben's paintings are lushly textured with bold, big, colorful brush strokes.
Excellent as a read aloud.
Reviewed by the Education Oasis Staff.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An orphaned cat walks from Rouen (just outside of Paris) to Mont Blanc via the Loire Valley, and then all the way to St. Tropez to find his original home in this beautifully illustrated book. Greg Hallensleben's rich, captivating oil colors, visible brush strokes, dabs of color, atmospheric haze, and subject matter recall such great French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as Monet, Van Gough, Rousseau, and Gaugin.

The unnamed cat, seen walking by a Monet-inspired Notre Dame, seems fated to join his gateaux miserables: "He prowled the street begging for scraps to eat and fleeing from stray dogs! But then, the Gallic spirit arises, and he decides to head for the home he was taken from years ago. The prose respects the intelligence of the young reader, and the inner voice calling him to the sea is believable.

However, this is more of a picture book than an adventure tale. Hallensleben shows the effects of light on scenery as the cat journeys towards the Mediterranean. While Hallensleben's richly textured oils and vast horizons are impressive in their grandeur, they don't distance the reader (perhaps because we can identify with the cat, and because of Hallensleben's warm and varied palette). We see the cat on a bridge overlooking "thundering trains," resting on the lawns of a large, shimmering chateau, seeking refuge in the snowy French Alps, and sipping water near what looks like a Roman bridge.

The paintings of the cat's single-minded journey give the book a unity and emotional pull far beyond its relatively simple story. The cat eventually finds a home and a friendly hand to pet him in a Matisse-inspired home and a Cezanne-inspired sea. This is an excellent book, especially for those who enjoy French landscapes and the painters who envisioned them.
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Format: Hardcover
I need to be honest with you. Let me share a fact about myself from my youth. When I was a child there were certain plots in books and movies that I just could not take: Cats In Peril (or CIP). One of my favorite picture books, "The Patchwork Cat", was beloved by me but still raised my inner hackles because it contained a CIP. The years passed and I came to believe that CIPs no longer had the power to bring me to tears. Enter "The Cat Who Walked Across France". Giving it a cursory glance, I was not overly impressed. The story might be nice but the pictures were just the kind of pseudo-Impressionism I tend to avoid. Then again, it was on the New York Public Library's list of one of the best children's books of 2004. And because I am slowly working my way through that list, I decided to give it a shot. What I expected was just your average everyday run-of-the-mill-cat-in-France picture book. What I found was a CIP that uses excellent storytelling and strangely compelling illustrations to leave you in tears by the end of the tale. A book that far exceeds expectations.

The cat grew up by the sea in St. Tropez, France. It had a nice old woman to look after it and a good comfortable life. When the old woman dies, the cat is sent to the far North, around Rouen, along with her possessions. And by that carelessness that too often occurs at the hands of busy humans, the cat is forgotten. Fortunately, after some begging and escapes from the local dogs, the feline decides to head back to the south. In true cat fashion he doesn't examine why he is doing this. Only that it's something that must be done. The rest of the book follows the cat as he travels from cityscape to countryside and everything in between.
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Format: Hardcover
Beautifully written and illustrated, this book guides the reader through France through the perspective of a cat. After his owner died, the cat was left with no one to care for and love him; he decided to leave the only home he knew. He traveled through France exploring the countryside and the big cities in search of a new home. The cat realized he was not wanted by anyone he encountered. Villagers and children shooed him and the cat had to dodge cars and bicycles. Even though the cat was lonely, he would often be reminded of the lady and the stone house, which he called home for so long. The smell of lemons, snapping of twigs, crunching leaves, and salty air would inspire him to keep moving. The cat trekked through the mountains of France, and fields of lavender. His journey finally came to an end when he arrived at "the gate of the stone house by the edge of the sea." The cat is reminded of the old lady in the stone house when he is scratched under the chin. This is an excellent read for children and demonstrates a great deal of determination and steadfastness. The cat never gave up in search of people who loved him. The author's choice of words makes this story an excellent example of writing to appeal to all the senses. The children will be able to relate to the character in the story because it is an animal most children will be familiar with. Children will also benefit by seeing images from another country. Over all, this book is an excellent book for use in the classroom; this book could be used for many different "teaching points" or just as an independent read. Enjoy!
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