This is an absolutely beautifully written story that educates children (and any who read the book) on why Siamese cats are really Chinese cats, and why their faces, ears, paws, and tails turn darker as they grow up.
Sagwa, is a “pearl white kitten,” that lived with her parents in the House of the Foolish Magistrate. Sagwa’s parents were forced by the Magistrate to write his strict, selfish rules by dipping their tails in ink. One day, Sagwa accidentally falls into an inkpot and then walks over one of the Magistrate’s Scroll of Rules that proclaims that all singing must be banned. Her paw marks that stain the scroll, change the meaning of the rule so that it now reads, “People must sing.”
Once the villagers hear the new rule, they sing in praise of the Foolish Magistrate, which warms his heart and causes him to take back all the old strict rules. The Magistrate celebrates what Sagwa has done by opening his house to all stray cats in the kingdom. He declares that the cats shall eat as much catfish as they wish and that from this day forth, “all Chinese cats shall have dark faces, ears, paws, and tails–in honor of the greatest of felines, Sagwa of China.”
Tan, who collaborated with Schields on her first children’s book in 1992, tells this charming tale perfectly, in language that is both simple and elegant. And Schields’s artwork complements the text wonderfully with its traditional Chinese border decorations and colorful, well-drawn characters.