Ketzel: the Cat Who Composed, by Leslea Newman — Book Recommendation
January 30, 2017
This is the second K post today, because I couldn’t resist telling you about this delightful picture book. Sometimes we just need to enjoy the moment. And sometimes we can find inspiration in the most unexpected places, as happened in this delightful picture book.
Title: Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed
Author: Lesléa Newman
Illustrator: Amy June Bates
Publisher: Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2015.
Genre: Picture book based on a true story
Audience Age: 4 to 8
Themes/Topics: Music, inspiration, kitten, having an open and imaginative mind
Opening Sentences: Moshe Cotel lived in the middle of a noisy building in the middle of a noisy street in the middle of a noisy city. But Moshe didn’t mind. Everything he heard was music to his ears.
Synopsis: Moshe Cotel was an aspiring composer living in a large city. One day, one of the sounds Moshe heard in that noisy city was “a small sound, a sad sound” — the mew of a tiny kitten (in Yiddish, ketzel). He took the kitten home, and it quickly settled in.
Moshe wanted to enter a piano competition, but the requirements were to submit a composition that was just sixty seconds long. Try as he might, he could not write something that short and still create a fully-realized composition. He was ready to give it up as an impossible task, until Ketzel jumped down and walked across the keys.
This book, based on a true story, underlines the importance of being alert and open to whatever might touch the imagination, however odd it might be. And it champions the power of something small to have a great influence.
The illustrations are a total joy, as well, adding verve and depth to an already wonderful story.
For Further Enrichment: Sadly, Moshe Cotel died in 2008. There is an excellent article about him at this link to the New York Times. The article mentions Ketzel right at the end. Not only was he a composer, but he championed the cause of Jewish people everywhere, and eventually became a rabbi.
Here is the composer’s website, which is still up despite Rabbi Cotel’s death.
Here’s the Kirkus review of this lovely picture book.
K is for Ketzel, and kitten, and for keeping an open mind and an open heart.