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Dembowski column: 'Hero Cat' by Eileen Spinelli warms the heart

4:47 PM, Jan. 29, 2014  |  Comments
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Author Jules Verne once said, "I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through."

Those who know me personally know that I adore cats and have had them as pets for many years. Being a fan of these creatures, I am drawn to books written about them. I recently discovered a wonderful picture book: "Hero Cat" by Eileen Spinelli.

In this story we are introduced to a homeless cat that is searching for a safe place to give birth to her kittens. I will be the first one to preach that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. It was the cover of this book, however, that immediately got my attention when I picked it up at our local public library this past summer.

The illustrations by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen fit the story perfectly. As the homeless cat wanders from one place to another, meeting up with an ornery tom cat and two boys trading cards in a back alley shed, she finally settles in an abandoned building and gives birth to her kittens on a cold, winter day.

When she leaves the building to find food, she returns to a shocking discovery. Her five kittens, named Black-and-White, Gray, Siamese, White Paws and Smokey, are trapped inside the burning, abandoned building.

She races around firefighters as she goes into the building to retrieve each kitten. Her efforts to rescue each of her offspring are depicted in both illustrations and words that keep the reader on the edge of her (or his) seat.

At the end of story, the reader finds out all of the kittens are saved, thanks to the love and courage of their mother, proclaimed by the firefighters as the "hero cat." The last picture in the book is an actual photograph of the real "hero cat" in 1996, named Scarlett, on whom the story is based.

If you are looking for a heart-warming story, this is the book for you. I would recommend this for all ages. Its message of hope and love is more than appropriate for all.

Sheila Dembowski is the media specialist for Riverside Elementary School and a local author. She can be reached at sdembowski@dce.k12.wi.us or her blog at collaborationisthekey.wordpress.com.

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