Calabash Cat :: 2004


Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award


Gold Seal



From the front flap:

Calabash Cat, a West African cat, set out one day to find where the world ends. His adventures take him across a desert, grasslands, a jungle, and the ocean, until he finds what he is looking for.

Illustrated in the style of the calabash engravers of the country of Chad, James Rumford’s original tale will keep you thinking long after you have closed the covers of this book—about our one world, and about seeking knowledge and finding wisdom.

When I had finished writing and illustrating Traveling Man, the story of the travels of Ibn Batuta, I decided to write about my gourd cat from Chad and how he foolishly set off to find the end of the world. I originally called the book Ibn Batu, a play on Ibn Batuta's name (batu means 'cat' in Chad).  Somehow Ibn Batu wound up on my editor's desk, got changed to Calabash Cat and became an award-winning book.

Since its publication, I have been amazed at the reaction it has caused in readers. Several reviewers thought that the book was about friendship, since each animal helps the cat reach his goal. When the book won a Zolotow Honor Award, one of the members of the award committee told me how moved he had been when the eagle came and showed the cat the truth. A friend of mine, Wally "Famous Amos" of cookie renown, reads this book at seminars he gives and commencement talks he is invited to. Often he will call me up to give me his new take on the story. It's about perseverance, he says. A few weeks later: I have it! The eagle is God!

But by far, the best reaction comes from children. They often do not express themselves in words, but in pictures, drawing their own animals with other animals inside. Most memorable was a boy from Samoa, who drew a turtle with geometric shapes covering its shell. Each shape, he told me, was a member of his family!

publisher: Houghton Mifflin

editor: Amy Flynn

art director: Bob Kosturko

For activities for young authors and artists, click here.