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A Junior Library Guild Selection!

King o’ the Cats

Book illustration

Told by Aaron Shepard
Illustrated by Kristin Sorra

August 2004 Junior Library Guild Selection

2005 Kansas National Educational Association Reading Circle Catalog

2006 Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award Nominee

Aaron Shepard reading King o' the Cats

Watch Aaron read it!

(11 minutes)

Young Peter Black has a bad reputation in town for telling wild stories. Father Allen has given him work as a sexton, but this may be his very last chance at a job.

So, what is Peter to do when he happens upon a cat coronation in the church in the dead of night? How can he convince Father Allen that this isn’t just one more wild story? And why is Father Allen’s cat staring at him like that?

Explore the mystery in this much expanded and highly imaginative retelling of an old English favorite. Meow. . . .

Picture book • Ages 4–12

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of The Baker’s Dozen, The Sea King’s Daughter, The Monkey King, and many more children’s books, while his Web site is known internationally as a prime resource for folktales, storytelling, and reader’s theater. Once a professional storyteller, Aaron specializes in lively retellings of folktales and other traditional literature, which have won him honors from the American Library Association, the New York Public Library, the Bank Street College of Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and the American Folklore Society.

Kristin Sorra has illustrated picture books for numerous publishers. Her work has also appeared in comic books, magazines, stationery and paper products, off‑Broadway shows, Web sites, and clothing hang tags.

Simon & Schuster/Atheneum

Hardcover ~ 2004

Paperback ~ 2010

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Book cover


“A well-told, atmospherically illustrated replacement—at last—for the standard, but far-too-sketchy, Joseph Jacobs/Paul Galdone rendition.”—Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2004

“Builds nicely and creates a fuller sense of the alternate life of the cats. . . . A seasoned storyteller, Shepard retains the basic scheme and a bit of wording from Jacobs, crafting a smooth narrative that will please listeners, storytellers, and readers.”—Margaret Bush, School Library Journal, Aug. 2004

“The story benefits from Shepard’s firm grasp on the elements of good storytelling. . . . A fine choice for reading aloud.”—Carolyn Phelan, American Library Association Booklist, Oct. 1, 2004

“Kristin Sorra’s vibrant drawings bring an old English folk story to life in Aaron Shepard’s engaging King o’ the Cats.”—Children’s Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review, Jan 2005

Sample Text

One night Peter couldn’t sleep. He tossed and he turned and at last got up to make himself some tea. But when he glanced out his window, he saw the windows of the church ablaze with light.

“What in the world . . . ?” muttered Peter. “There shouldn’t be anyone there, this time of night. And how’d they get in, anyway?”

Peter pulled on a coat, crossed the yard, and quietly unlocked the back door. As he crept through the vestry, he heard a sound from the church. Meow, meow . . . .

“Sounds like a cat,” murmured Peter. “But I never knew a cat to light a candle.”

He peered around the curtain hung at the church entrance, and what he saw made him gasp. There was not one cat, but hundreds of cats, of every size and coloring. They filled the pews, and all of them sat upright just like people.

On the steps to the altar, a big black cat—the biggest cat Peter had ever seen—was kneeling with his head bowed. Standing above him with paws upraised was a black cat in bishop’s robes, intoning, “Meow, meow . . . .”

An altar kitten approached with a velvet pillow on which lay a small golden crown. The bishop lifted the crown and solemnly placed it on the kneeling cat’s head.

The church exploded with cries of Meow, meow! Peter didn’t wait to see more. He raced through the vestry and back to his cottage, where he jumped into bed and stayed trembling under the covers till morning.

Bright and early, Peter was over to see Father Allen. The priest was reading in the conservatory, his black cat Tom curled up on his lap.

“Good morning, Peter,” said the priest. “What brings you here so early?”

“Father Allen, I came to tell you about something terribly weird in the church last night. I saw these lights and I went over to check, and I heard a meow—”

“Meow,” said the priest’s cat, Tom.

“Yes, just like that,” said Peter. “And when I looked, there were hundreds of cats in the church. And there was this one big black cat, and he was kneeling in front, and their bishop was crowning him—”

Father Allen was looking at him sternly. “Peter, do you remember what I told you about wild stories?”

“Of course I do, Father.”

“Then let’s have no more of this, all right?”

Sample text copyright © 2004 Aaron Shepard. Top illustration courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. Illustration copyright © 2004 Kristin Sorra.

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