Buy this book at
To Past Reviews Index
Back to Last Page

The Best Cat in the World

Leslea Newman & Ronald Himler

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : William B Eerdmans Publishing Co

Published : 2004

Copyright : Leslea Newman & Ronald Himler 2004

ISBN-10 : HB 0-8028-5252-1
ISBN-13 : HB 978-0-8028-5252-6

Publisher's Write-Up

Even the best cat in the world doesn't live forever, and Victor is very sad when his beloved cat, Charlie, dies. His mother suggests getting a new cat, but Victor isn't so sure. Finally, when the vet tells Victor she has another cat that really needs a home, Victor agrees to give the new cat a chance. But the new cat, Shelley, isn't like Charlie. She doesn't look like Charlie, or act like Charlie, or like to do the things Charlie used to do. With all these differences, is there any chance that Victor can learn to accept and love Shelley?

Leslea Newman's gentle story honours the full range of a child's feelings after losing a favourite pet, while Ron Himler's soft pencil and watercolour illustrations capture Victor's poignant emotions as well as the playful antics of his new kitten.

Column Ends


Reader Reviews

Why not Submit a Review your own Review for this book?

Review by Molly Martin (010420) Rating (9/10)

Review by Molly Martin
Book Source: Not Known
Rating 9/10

The Best Cat in the World, penned by author Leslea Newman and illustrated by Ronald Himler is a well thought out work prepared for use by parents, teachers, and care givers as they endeavour to prepare children for the unavoidability of imminent death of a much-loved pet.

This story commences with a boy named Victor and a cat named Charlie. When he was a kitten Charlie loved to jump and run and have fun. He and Victor played together a lot. But today Charlie is no longer a kitten, Charlie is old and because he is Charlie sleeps much of the time.

Charlie’s family realised that he was not feeling good as he used to and they took him to his vet, the pet doctor, who had taken care of Charlie from the time he was just a kitten. Nevertheless, this time his vet could not help Charlie because he was not sick; Charlie was just old.

And, as happens in life, Charlie returned home and died with his family close by shortly after his visit to the doctor. Victor was upset, he missed Charlie and could not feel happy for two days. Mama fixed Victor’s favourite food for supper and Victor could not even eat it.

Victor and his mother planted a rosebush in the yard near Charlie’s grave. A woeful Victor often went to sit by Charlie’s grave and thought about Charlie and all the enjoyable times they had had.

One day Victor’s mother thought perhaps they might try to find a cat who needed a home. But Victor was too sad and did not want to even think about it. Not too much time went by and Victor received a telephone call from Charlie’s vet. The vet told Victor he had a problem.

He asked Victor if he might be able to help. The vet said he had a miserable, homeless, little cat who needs a home. Would it be possible, the vet asked, for Victor to come and take the cat home.

At first Victor was not positive that bringing a new cat home was a good idea. However Victor agreed to bring the small bundle of fur home. She is a girl kitten, her name is Shelley.

Shelley is a tortie and does not look at all as did Charlie. Torties are black with orange and white, Charlie was orange. Charlie liked to sleep on a pillow on Victor’s bed, Shelly likes to sleep on the windowsill. She does not like to be scratched between her ears while she is eating. Charlie did. Shelley is not at all like Charlie.

Shelley doesn’t care to do any of the entertaining things that Charlie did; over time Victor begins to realize Shelley is not Charlie. While Shelley is a different cat altogether; she does her own fun things. Her accomplishments and actions are not like Charlie's because she is not Charlie. And that is okay. Once again Victor happily understands that he again has the best cat in the world.

As much as we may love our cats and take care of them; cats will not live as long as we will live. Our much-loved pet will not be with us forever. And, I, a parent, think that is an important lesson best learned early. I was raised as a farm kid; farm kids tend to grow up understanding that life is a progression, birth, aging and death are all a part. Somehow that, that knowledge, helps to lessen the pain of losing an unforgettable pet, friend or parent, or even a child.

Even the best cat in the world will not live forever, and Victor is understandably woeful when his much-loved Charlie cat, dies. Osage County First Grade experience the pleasure of new, little siblings or cousins, and, they sob when they relate that their dog or cat just died last night under the wheels of a car, or that grandpa died.

Reading The Best Cat in the World offers an excellent occasion to talk about our feelings, and to commence to put into perspective our own lives as we too face loss and sorrow and understanding.

Illustrator Ron Himler's watercolour and soft pencil images pair perfectly with Writer Newman’s touching narrative.

My students know that I like critters, a lot, we talk about Toes my dear Siamese who died just weeks short of her 20th birthday. And we talk as well about the homeless little Siamese lady cat who came timidly out from under our school building and the 6 kittens she gave birth to in my garage during the weeks following her rescue.

I find The Best Cat in the World to be a well written and much needed book addressing the issue of death; in this case the loss of a much loved pet with understanding and empathy. The book is offered in a child friendly narrative. Vocabulary is simple enough for young kids to understand, but, it does not talk down to or use –baby- language to get the message across.

My class of First Graders cut right to the chase, ‘I bet you are glad that you have the kittens now that Toes is dead, Mrs. M.’ The kids don’t express the sentiment in graceful terms, but yes, I am indeed pleased that we have the kittens since our Toes is dead.

I am pleased to recommend The Best Cat in the World for classroom bookshelf, public and school library collections, gifting a child who may be facing or have need for dealing with their anguish following their losing a pet, and for parents, teachers and counsellors who will use the book to help children commence to realize and deal with the certainty of life and death.
Molly Martin (1st April 2020)

Back to Top of Page
Column Ends