The Chinese Siamese Cat

Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat


Book: The Chinese Siamese Cat

Author: Amy Tan

Illustrator: Gretchen Schields

Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks, republished in 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0027888355 (Hardcover)

ISBN-10: 0027888355 (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 978-0689846175 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 0689846177 (Paperback)

Related website: (author), (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Reading level: Ages 5-8

Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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     Tan, AmyThe Chinese Siamese Cat (published in 1994 by Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY  10020).  Why do Siamese cats have dark ears, paws, and tails?  Sagwa is a pearly-white Chinese kitten who lives with her parents, Baba and Mama Miao, and her two siblings, Dongwa and Sheegwa, in the House of the Foolish Magistrate, who is in charge of issuing rules for all the people and animals in his province and makes a lot of silly proclamations.  One day the Foolish Magistrate writes a decree that no one can sing until the sun goes down.  He doesn’t see Sagwa perched up high on a shelf.  After he leaves, Sagwa decides to do something about it, so she jumps down, lands in the inkpot, and gets ink on her ears, paws, and tail, but she also blots out the word “not” on the paper.  When it is read, it will say, “People must sing until the sun goes down.”  But what will the Foolish Magistrate do to Sagwa and her family when he finds out what has happened?

     When our boys were young, they occasionally watched the animated PBS series Sagwa.  We even used some of the early reading books taken from the television show, which are credited to George Daugherty who produced it.  One day while watching a segment with our younger son Jeremy, I noticed that it was based on characters taken from a children’s book by Amy Tan, whose name I recognized but had not read any of her books.  Tan is well known for her adult novels, such as The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter.  I like the story of Sagwa because, in addition to being a fun folk-like tale for youngsters, it exemplifies and encourages bravery in the face of injustice.  Also, we are “cat people,” so it has a special interest for us.  Originally published as The Chinese Siamese Cat, some editions are called Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat, most likely due to the popularity of the animated show.

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