The Pope can seem like a very intimidating figure to small children. Jon M. Sweeney works to change that in his latest book, The Pope’s Cat. The Pope and the stray feline are both on a morning stroll when they meet each other. The Pope soon names her Margaret and claims her as his own, even though this means sneaking her into the Vatican. Before long, however, the cat has made her presence known and even gets to meet the Queen of England who has come for a visit.
A simple chapter book, The Pope’s Cat is designed for children in first through fourth grades. The black and white illustrations by Roy DeLeon add to the charm of the book.
Jon Sweeney shares about The Pope’s Cat
I want our kids to learn about the papal office, the Vatican, Swiss Guards, and the Curia. I think the Pope should be more than a photo on the fridge. I used fiction to entertain children who are just starting to read for themselves, then to subtly teach them a few things along the way.
So, the Pope in The Pope’s Cat is kind, thoughtful, busy, and smart, and kids get to see what he does day to day. They also see him feeling nervous, and once, annoyed. I hope the Pope feels real in The Pope’s Cat, like people they know in everyday life, but I also make sure kids see how he is invested with enormous responsibilities. There are, after all, really good reasons why we have his picture on the wall or his image on the fridge.
Margaret is taken by the Pope to live inside the Vatican. Like Corduroy in the department store after closing, Margaret offers an insider’s view of what happens. Then, like Curious George, Margaret gets into trouble. She ends up front and center when the Queen of England comes on a state visit. Margaret can be a bit of a troublemaker! This is disarming for kids. It allows them to relax, listen, and learn.
I love Rome, too, and I wanted to use the series to gently teach a few things about the great city. There are a few Italian words and phrases in The Pope’s Cat. How else, for instance, could a Pope convince a Roman stray to come to him, rather than run away, if not by speaking gently in Italian? And there are a couple of my favorite (now Margaret’s favorites) Italian dishes that are messily lopped at the Pope’s table.
I think kids will enjoy Margaret and the Pope in The Pope’s Cat. I hope you – parents, teachers, educators, deacons, pastors – will get some fun out of it too. This fall comes book two, Margaret’s Night in St. Peter’s (A Christmas Story), in which Margaret and the Pope introduce kids to the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, including Michelangelo’s Pieta, and the importance and meaning of Midnight Mass. What fun this is! I believe it’s possible to create books kids want to read, that introduce them to serious things.
Sweeney is happy to Skype with classrooms using this book. Find out more at https://www.paracletepress.com/Content/Site186/ProductContent/Letter_from_Jon.pdf
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