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The Cat at the Wall

by Deborah Ellis

Published by Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2014
144 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55498-491-6

Ages 10-13

Set against Israeli-Palestinian tensions in the city of Bethlehem, Deborah Ellis skillfully connects the personal struggle to be a good person and do the right thing with the larger political conflict in an unusual, nuanced, and intriguing story. A stray cat that was once an American girl from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, named Clare follows two Israeli soldiers into a Palestinian house where they’ve been told to spy on the neighborhood. The house looks like it was suddenly abandoned, but the cat senses a child is present, and eventually directs them to the hiding place of a mute, asthmatic Palestinian boy. As a girl, Clare was often cruel, caught in that spiral in which one unkind act leads to another, in which anything is easier than saying “I’m sorry” and admitting the hurt in her heart. Clare’s sixth grade teacher gave Clare the opportunity to reveal the best parts of herself, but Clare resisted mightily, and then an accident ended her life as a girl. Meanwhile, as Palestinian neighbors realize the Israeli soldiers are inside the house, the situation escalates and Clare the cat, still tinged with disdain, finds she cannot ignore the truths she knows about the people involved, and the chance to make a difference at one moment, in one place. Ellis exposes the tragedy of conflicts large and small while revealing moments of compassion and decency in hearts of characters facing chaos within themselves, and all around them.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center


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