review: 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.


image of part of a page from The White Cat and the Monk book


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.

mug of tea