The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, 2017 Harper Collins, Harpervia Edition 2021 hardcover, translation by Louise Heal Kawai
I read the review below on Lesa Hostline’s Lesa’s Book Critiques blog, and use her text with permission.
“Rintaro Natsuki’s grandfather has died. He was the closest family member for the high school student. All he has left is a concerned aunt he doesn’t know, and Natsuki Books, his grandfather’s secondhand bookstore. But, the teenager who never fit it was in the habit of going to Natsuki Books, immersing himself in books, and voraciously reading anything he could find. His grandfather always reminded him that “Books have tremendous power”, but he also warned him it was important to be in the world, not shut away from it. At the moment, Rintaro only wants to shut himself away. He doesn’t want to pack up the bookstore and move away with his aunt.
Two of Rintaro’s classmates do stop to check on him. His class rep, Sayo, brings his homework, and Ryota Akiba, the brainiest boy in the senior class stops in because he loves books. But, it’s a talking cat that changes Rintaro’s life. Tiger the Tabby demands Rintaro’s help in rescuing books. One man reads 100 books a month, but doesn’t treasure them. He locks them away. One man chops books into little pieces to distill the important message. And, the third has a message that Rintaro finds difficult to fight.
The Cat Who Saved Books takes Rintaro on life-changing adventures. He grows, but Tiger worries that he only cares for books, and hasn’t learned the message of empathy. That will come.”
Lesa says: “I read several reviews of this book that highlighted the magic and a little romance between two teenagers. I think the reviewers missed the entire message of the book. As book banning escalates in this country, it’s even more important to value the contents and messages of books. At the same time, Natsukawa writes about Rintaro’s grandfather, a man who tried to teach the important messages of life. Don’t bully those weaker than you are. Don’t tell lies. Help out those in need. He said nowadays, the obvious is no longer obvious.”
I enjoyed this one more than I expected to. Wanting some light reading, I got that with and interesting young character, an insightful look at the way people value – or don’t value – books, and a nice ending.