The Rabbi’s Cat is a very endearing and sweetly written story of a Jewish family living in Algiers in the 1930s. The story is told through the eyes of the Rabbi’s cat, who one day eats the squawking family bird and develops the ability to talk. The rabbi will not let the talking cat be near his daughter, for fear that the cat will fill the daughter’s mind with dangerous thoughts. So the cat demands to have a bar mitzvah, in order to be a proper Jew and be able to be with Zlabya, the daughter. Throughout the course of this graphic novel, we learn much about the history and beliefs and values of Judiasm as the Rabbi tries to teach these values to the cat, as well as through the cat’s silent obsevations of those around him. The setting of Algiers is a great location, because back in 1930, Arabs and and Jews were able to co-exist, living under strict French control. At one point the rabbi and the cat tag along with Zlabya and her new husband to meet the husband’s family. Here the rabbi is taken out of his comfort zone of Algiers and put into wild and exuberant Paris, and we learn more about tolerance, and faith being tested.
The writing is full of humor, history and emotion. The images are amazing. The dark, warm tones really take you into a new world. I have to agree with what it says on the inside cover of the book. It really does bring to life a lost world, a lost time before the Israeli/Palestine conflict when both groups had a mutual enemy in the French. If you liked Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi then I would recommend this book to be next on your list. If you enjoy this book and would like to learn more about this world, I would recommend the movie The Battle of Algiers, a documentary of how the Arabs in Algiers struggled to break free from French occupation.
FINAL GRADE: A+The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar Pantheon Books, 2005 ISBN 0375714641 142 pages