Although at first this slim volume has the appearance of a children's "animal story," with lovely woodcuts by the celebrated illustrator Lynn Ward, it soon becomes evident that the author's goal is to convey in lyrical and poetic language the point of view of Far Eastern philosophy in general and Buddhist thinking in particular. The Cat Who Went to Heaven attempts to describe the interrelationship of human ideals and the qualities of the animal world.
Using the device of a simple folk tale, with added legends, Coatsworth portrays Buddhist principles of living: devotion, compassion, and respect for life. She fashions an instructive parable, interwoven with poems and fables and the inspiring story of the Buddha himself. This unusual blend of literary forms is a fine example of how allegory and style can merge to evoke the spirit of another culture, in particular its peaceful outlook on life and the natural world.
Although the author produced an enormous body of work, this book remains her most popular and is still much in demand among book collectors and devotees of young adult literature. Aside from its unusual structure and content, The Cat Who Went to Heaven has much to offer the reader since it demonstrates that a book written for young people can be part of a literary tradition that includes art, religion, and an unfamiliar realm of legend and myth.
(The entire section is 229 words.)