The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar

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The preeminent work by one of France’s most celebrated young comic artists, The Rabbi’s Cat tells the wholly unique story of a rabbi, his daughter, and their talking cat — a philosopher brimming with scathing humor and surprising tenderness.

In Algeria in the 1930s, a cat belonging to a widowed rabbi and his beautiful daughter, Zlabya, eats the family parrot and gains the ability to speak. To his master’s consternation, the cat immediately begins to tell lies (the first being that he didn’t eat the parrot). The rabbi vows to educate him in the ways of the Torah, while the cat insists on studying the kabbalah and having a Bar Mitzvah. They consult the rabbi’s rabbi, who maintains that a cat can’t be Jewish — but the cat, as always, knows better.

Zlabya falls in love with a dashing young rabbi from Paris, and soon master and cat, having overcome their shared self-pity and jealousy, are accompanying the newlyweds to France to meet Zlabya’s cosmopolitan in-laws. Full of drama and adventure, their trip invites countless opportunities for the rabbi and his cat to grapple with all the important — and trivial — details of life.

Rich with the colors, textures, and flavors of Algeria’s Jewish community, The Rabbi’s Cat brings a lost world vibrantly to life — a time and place where Jews and Arabs coexisted — and peoples it with endearing and thoroughly human characters, and one truly unforgettable cat.

About Joann Sfar

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Considered one of the brightest and most talented of the younger generation of French comic artists, Joann Sfar has written or collaborated on more than one hundred books for adults and children. He has worked with some of the best young artists in France, including Christophe Bain, Emmanuel Giubert, and Lewis Trondheim. In the United States he's best known for his children's books, Little Vampire Goes to School, which made the New York Times best-seller list, and Little Vampire Does Kung Fu!, which was recently nominated for an Eisner Award. Sfar was awarded the prestigious Jury Prize at Angouleme for The Rabbi's Cat. He lives in Paris with his wife, two children, and the model for the rabbi's cat.
Published August 16, 2005 by Pantheon. 152 pages
Genres: History, Comics & Graphic Novels, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Rabbi's Cat

Kirkus Reviews

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The story meanders about in an easygoing manner, following the rabbi’s daughter’s love life, a journey to Paris and the cat’s various musings on life—when, that is, he’s not causing trouble (“I tell the rabbi’s rabbi that I am God, who has taken the appearance of a cat in order to test him”).

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Publishers Weekly

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When the cat eats a parrot, he gains the power of speech and tries to convince his master to teach him the Torah, raising the question of whether the appropriate age for his bar mitzvah should be in human years or cat years.

Jun 27 2005 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat


Director Joann Sfar is clearly on the rise and if you're a Francophile, you'll want to see this award-winning animated movie, "Rabbi's Cat."

Jan 18 2013 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat

AV Club

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Drawing on an assortment of sequences covering about half of the series’ five books—released in America as The Rabbi’s Cat and The Rabbi’s Cat 2—the film version wanders considerably, encompassing interspecies religious dialectics, a runaway Russian artist, and a cross-continent quest.

Dec 06 2012 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat

San Francisco Chronicle

The titular feline of the French animated feature "The Rabbi's Cat" suddenly begins to talk after he swallows his owner's parrot.

Jan 18 2013 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat

Spirituality & Practice

The rabbi hosts his cousin Malka of the Lions (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) and on a pilgrimage to a saint's tomb, joins another cousin, Mohammed Sfar (Fellag Sheik), a Sufi lover of God whose openness to the variety of faiths is admirable.

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Time Out Chicago

The rabbi and his daughter (Hafsia Herzi), to whom the cat clings, meet a Russian Jew who’s escaped the Cossacks;

Dec 27 2012 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat

The Hollywood Reporter

France’s favorite kosher kitty gets a big screen 3D grooming in The Rabbi’s Cat (Le Chat du rabbin), author and co-director Joann Sfar’s adaptation of his highly successful comic book series.

Jun 01 2011 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat

Slant Magazine

The cat, who dramatically yearns for a bar mitzvah after the rabbi almost kiddingly takes him away from his daughter, is an amusing Greek chorus to a journey that will take him and the rabbi from multi-ethnic Algiers to Ethiopia, where a stowaway Russian Jew hopes to find the Jerusalem of Africa.

Mar 17 2012 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat


After swallowing a parrot, a facetious feline in 1920s Algiers can suddenly speak its mind in Gallic animated film "The Rabbi's Cat," from directorial duo Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux.

Jun 05 2011 | Read Full Review of The Rabbi's Cat

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