The White Cat and the Monk


I will readily admit that I often browse — and sometimes even buy from — the children’s and young-adult sections of bookstores.


It’s been quite some time since I qualified as a “young adult” reader and, no, we don’t have children. Our goal of giving books to our three-year-old niece and nephew at every gift-giving opportunity does provide a great excuse to peruse the children’s section even more often than I would on my own. But when I’m browsing the bookstore for myself, I don’t really care about a book’s intended audience.


Exquisite prose, a compelling story, memorable characters, and (if the book is illustrated) lovely images will grab hold of me every time. No matter what.


All that to say: I recently bought a gorgeous little book in the section of our local bookstore ostensibly reserved for children.


The “story” in The White Cat and the Monk is Jo Ellen Bogart’s simple yet touching retelling of a poem written by an Irish monk in the ninth century. In an author’s note at the end, she explains (and, considering how long ago the original was written, speculates) a bit more about the monk and his timeless poem. Alongside the text, Sydney Smith’s illustrations are simple yet beautifully evocative.



Woven together, the brief text and the illustrations create a marvelous, quiet meditation on our love for our pets, our love of books and learning, and the joy of focusing on a particular task.


If, like me, you adore both cats and books — and how perfectly well they go together — I suspect you’ll enjoy this book as much as I do.


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Welcome to the online home of The Novel Cat, where reading, relaxing, and snuggling with cats are a way of life. I’m Jennifer, and I help too-busy-to-read bookworms and those who want to be readers maximize life’s simple joys — like reading a good book — by helping them create quiet spaces (mentally and physically) inspired by the habits of cats, who are masters at finding joy in life’s small details.

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”

W. Somerset Maugham

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”


“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”

Marcel Proust

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”

Helene Hanff

“What a happy woman I am, living in a garden, with books … birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them!”

Elizabeth von Arnim

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”

Neil Gaiman

“The art of reading is … an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us; when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“When I … looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness.”

Elizabeth von Arnim