The Cat at the Wall

The Cat at the Wall

Written by: Ellis, Deborah
ages 9 to 12 / grades 4 to 7

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A remarkable and thought-provoking new novel set on Israel’s West Bank, by the author of The Breadwinner.

On Israel’s West Bank, a cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards.

Should she help him?

After all, she’s just a cat.

Or is she?

It turns out that this particular cat is not used to thinking about anyone but herself. She was once a regular North American girl who only had to deal with normal middle-school problems — staying under the teachers’ radar, bullying her sister and the uncool kids at school, outsmarting her clueless parents.

But that was before she died and came back to life as a cat, in a place with a whole different set of rules for survival.

When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. Where are the child’s parents? Why has he been left alone in the house? It is not long before his teacher and classmates come looking for him, and the house is suddenly surrounded by Palestinian villagers throwing rocks, and the sound of Israeli tanks approaching.

Not my business, thinks the cat. And then she sees a photograph, and suddenly she understands what happened to the boy’s parents, and why they have not returned. And as the soldiers begin to panic, and disaster seems certain, she knows that it is up to her to diffuse the situation.

But what can a cat do? What can any one creature do?

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.3
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

A remarkable and thought-provoking new novel set on Israel’s West Bank, by the author of The Breadwinner.

On Israel’s West Bank, a cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards.

Should she help him?

After all, she’s just a cat.

Or is she?

It turns out that this particular cat is not used to thinking about anyone but herself. She was once a regular North American girl who only had to deal with normal middle-school problems — staying under the teachers’ radar, bullying her sister and the uncool kids at school, outsmarting her clueless parents.

But that was before she died and came back to life as a cat, in a place with a whole different set of rules for survival.

When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don’t know what to do with him. Where are the child’s parents? Why has he been left alone in the house? It is not long before his teacher and classmates come looking for him, and the house is suddenly surrounded by Palestinian villagers throwing rocks, and the sound of Israeli tanks approaching.

Not my business, thinks the cat. And then she sees a photograph, and suddenly she understands what happened to the boy’s parents, and why they have not returned. And as the soldiers begin to panic, and disaster seems certain, she knows that it is up to her to diffuse the situation.

But what can a cat do? What can any one creature do?

Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.3
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

Published By Groundwood Books Ltd — Aug 25, 2014
Specifications 144 pages | 5 in x 7.5 in 144 pages | 5 in x 7.5 in
Supporting Resources
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Excerpt
Teacher's Guide
Written By

DEBORAH ELLIS is the author of the international bestseller The Breadwinner, which has been published in thirty languages. She has won the Governor General’s Award, the Middle East Book Award, the Peter Pan Prize, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Deborah has donated more than $2 million in royalties to organizations such as Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Mental Health Without Borders, the UNHCR and the Children in Crisis fund of IBBY. She lives in Simcoe, Ontario.

Written By

DEBORAH ELLIS is the author of the international bestseller The Breadwinner, which has been published in thirty languages. She has won the Governor General’s Award, the Middle East Book Award, the Peter Pan Prize, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award. A recipient of the Order of Canada, Deborah has donated more than $2 million in royalties to organizations such as Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, Mental Health Without Borders, the UNHCR and the Children in Crisis fund of IBBY. She lives in Simcoe, Ontario.

Audience ages 9 to 12 / grades 4 to 7
Reading Levels Lexile 670L
Guided Reading Z
Common Core CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.3

Commended, OLA Best Bets (Junior Fiction, Honorable Mention), 2015

Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 2015

Commended, Bank Street's Best Children's Books of the Year, 2015

Short-listed, Red Maple Award, 2016

“Quietly moving, full of surprises and, with Clare's colloquial and spirited voice, highly readable.” —Kirkus Reviews

“There are no black and whites here, only ordinary people caught in the tangle of history, misunderstanding, and fear.” —Booklist

“The ultimate message that every one has a story and that everyone has a chance at redemption is a hopeful one … a useful fictional counterpart to Ellis’ nonfiction work.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“The characters’ complexities are slowly revealed, adding layers to the story. Readers are plunged into the narrative, in the same way Clare must face her new feline life.” —School Library Journal

“Ellis's premise is an unusual one, but with it she crafts a thought-provoking and sensitive story about the power of empathy and selflessness.” —Publishers Weekly

“Without editorializing, Ellis’s suspenseful and thought-provoking novel offers a touching, humane context for one of the world’s most intractable situations.” —New York Times

“Ellis takes quiet characterizations and situations, using gently eloquent descriptions and dialogue to immerse the reader in the raw tension.” —Library Media Connection