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Varjak Paw Paperback – May 10, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Varjak Paw Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7-When danger, in the form of a strange man and his two deadly feline companions, intrudes upon the sheltered existence of a family of Mesopotamian Blue cats, Varjak must venture Outside for the first time to seek help. He meets a feral cat named Holly, who takes him to the city and helps him survive on the mean streets. His nights are filled with dreams of his fabled ancestor Jalal, who teaches him the Seven Skills of the Way of Jalal; they help him, in his waking hours, learn to fight and hunt. After run-ins with several cat gangs, the protagonist befriends a dog that helps him and Holly to rescue Varjak's family and hundreds of other cats from being turned into robotlike creatures to be sold as toys. The jumbled plot leaves many unanswered questions. Readers never learn why this evil man wants to turn cats into robots, and why he uses Varjak's owner's house as a base of operations. It's also not clear what the Way has to do with anything. In a story filled with so many holes, only the illustrations offer consistent pleasure. Warm yellow pictures drench the pages on which Jalal teaches Varjak the Way, which nicely evoke the Mesopotamian setting of the dreams; the rest of the drawings are edgy black-ink silhouettes of cats and other animals; they're energetic and expressive. Despite the compelling art, most libraries can skip this animal fantasy.
Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-6. In this British import, a Mesopotamian Blue kitten, Varjak Paw, leaves his sheltered, privileged life to venture out into the world to save his family from invading black cats. To survive in a dangerous city full of vicious dogs, cat gangsters, and the mysterious, evil Vanishings, Varjak learns the Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal, a secret martial art for cats. Mastering the Way helps the cat learn to trust his own instincts, which comes in handy after he decides to enlist the help of a dog to fight the evil cats and save his family. Varjak is a spirited adventurer who evolves gradually and believably into a courageous protagonist. By cleverly and adeptly relating the story through a cat's perspective, Said makes the novel especially fascinating. McKean's striking, black-and-white sketches add an edgy, haunting aspect to the tale, which is full of action, adventure, and suspense. The story is sure to leave readers looking forward to more about the formidable feline. Ed Sullivan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 500L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (May 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440420768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440420767
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By beckyjean VINE VOICE on June 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Varjak Paw is a young cat -- an aristocat, if you will -- who doesn't fit in with his snobby family. When the cats' pampered way of life is threatened, Varjak ventures out into the big bad world to fetch help. Along the way he meets loyal friends, fearsome enemies, and learns a sort of martial art for cats that is not as stupid as I just made it sound.
This is one of the most well-constructed books I've read in a while. The writing is smooth and elegant, yet the adventure never lets up. Adult and young-adult readers will find much to enjoy -- and learn from -- in this exciting and wise tale.
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A Kid's Review on September 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a book about an indoor cat, named Varjak Paw, one of the youngest of his family. Then the person that has been his family's owner for generations dies and a man with two very strange black cats appears. Elder Paw, the oldest in the family, tells Varjak about the Way of Jalal, but much of it has been lost through the ages. Jalal is his ancestor who traveled from Mesopotamia to the Contessa's house (where they live now). Varjak sets out to the city to find a "dog" to help them. In his dreams he is taught by Jalal "the Way". In the city he makes new friends and new enemies. I don't want to give any more away so you'll have to read the book to find out the ending. The ending is very surprising.
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Format: Library Binding
Enticed by the wonderful Dave McKean illustrations, I bought this even though it's a children's book. I love it! "Varjak Paw" is one of those crossover works which is sure to be a hit with young and old. I sense a cult classic in-the-making here. My only criticism is, I felt the ending was ever so slightly anti-climactic. Nevertheless, it's thought-provoking and highly imaginative, boasting a rich array of characters; some endearing, some scary - all memorable. It's also original, even if the 'hero having to learn and grow to find himself' theme is not. This book will stand up to repeat readings, which is important for young readers. You don't have to like cats to enjoy it, though you may look at them in a different way after reading "Varjak Paw".
What I would love now? For Pixar Productions, the makers of 'Finding Nemo', to make "Varjak" into a fabulous film.
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Format: Paperback
Ninja cats, drawn by Dave McKean. What else do you need?

This bizarre book - ostensibly for children - follows the adventure of a cat trying to save his family from being turned into clockwork toys. As Varjak brushes up on his martial arts, he also encounters a ragged group of friends (including CLUDGE the dog). Beautifully illustrated, with a simple (but weird) story that's a combination of Neil Gaiman and Watership Down.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The description made me sceptical, but upon reading this book, I was hooked. The first 10% was boring, nearly quit, but then the pace just grabs you. For a totally fictional/fantasy story, I was actually tearing up. The characters are so well brought out, I even liked the the baddies. The illustrations are downright awful, but you can ignore them, better if NO illustrations were in the book. The ending was a little too weird, but when you`'re hooked line and sinker, you read on. For some reason I got a feeling of Asian vibes? The pics had an Asian look about them, also, some grammar being used, felt Asian. It did distract me throughout the book, probably, the worst aspect of whole book. If set in Asia, be up front, so it does not distract.
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Format: Hardcover
You don't have to love cats to love this book. Having read hundreds of books over the course of the year, my sons (7 and 8 1/2 years old) and I give Varjak Paw our "Book of the Year" award. We love it! It's supenseful. It's passionate. It has a fundamental message that everyone needs to hear: It's not your "pedigree" but rather your conduct that makes you valuable.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. Falling somewhere in between child and adult fiction (and so finding the rare alchemy of appealing to both children and their parents) SF Said has created a world that explores the spiritual essence of 'cathood' as well as written a sweet coming-of-age story about a kitten who has the wrong coloured eyes. But I don't want to mislead you with allusions to charm and loveliness - this features a real, and terrifying antagonist - the Man with the Black Shoes. He is accompanied at all times by two huge, black cats who will destroy and kill anything on command.
When Varjak escapes to the Outside world (from his sheltered, protected upbringing) to find a Dog to scare off the Man with the Black Shoes who has killed his grandfather, he meets Holly - a streetwise, scruffy cat who educates him to the rules of the Gangs and the strange occurrings of the Vanishings.
Whilst all this is happening in the 'real' world, in his dreamlife, Varjak meanwhile is being taught the seven secrets by his legendary ancestor. During these moments we disappear into orange Mesopotamia where Varjak learns to hunt, become 'aware' and 'shadow-walk'.
The book is illustrated by Dave McKean - and this collaboration works wonderfully. Not only are his drawings and interpretations beautiful and striking, but Said's writing at times feels directly descended from the simplicity of the verbal narrative of graphic novels. Thus McKean's drawings are not mere accompaniments to a text, but the story might feel lacking without them.
This is a new and exciting world, and accomplished in its apparent simplicity. But I assure you there is nothing simple about this book: you will be thinking about the story for days, and if you are anything like me, will re-read it immediately and compulsively.
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