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Varjak Paw [Turtleback]

S. F. Said
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 10 2005
Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamian Blue kitten. He lives high up in an old house on a hill. He's never left home, but then his grandfather tells him about the Way - a secret martial art for cats. Now Varjak must use the Way to survive in a city full of dangerous dogs, cat gangs and, strangest of all the mysterious Vanishings.

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From School Library Journal

Grade 4-7–Having grown up at the top of the Hill behind walls with the Contessa, Varjak Paw and his family of Mesopotamian Blue cats have experienced only luxury. With the Contessa's death and the ominous intrusion of the stranger, Varjak is forced to abandon his family, including his grandfather, Elder Paw whose stories about their ancestor, Jalal, give him courage and hope to return to rescue them. During this journey, he meets feral cats and gangs, and faces all the dangers of urban life. He is transformed and brings salvation to all who encounter him. Guidall's narration of the novel by SF Said (Random, 2003) is exceptional, providing a myriad of distinct animal voices, and sometimes investing words with a cat-like howl or barking syllables. From the arrogant and youthful Julius to the street smart Holly, each vocalization is filled with personality through tone, inflection, and timing. The most significant of these is Jalal, the ancestral spirit who visits Varjak Paw in dreams. Guidall brings the flavor of Star War's Yoda to this character through his diction and timing, giving him the thoughtful, slow-paced speech of the ultimate teacher of the Way. In addition, Guidall adapts his audio style to the multi-faceted writing styles of the novel. When Varjak is climbing the wall to escape the attack of the black cats, Guidall reads this section like a poem, instead of the linear style in which it is written. This infuses urgency and tension into the novel with pauses and rhythm. The book and audio version used together are a great duo for reluctant readers.–Tina Hudak, St. Bernadette School, Silver Spring, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-6. In this British import, a Mesopotamian Blue kitten, Varjak Paw, leaves his sheltered, privileged life to venture out into the world to save his family from invading black cats. To survive in a dangerous city full of vicious dogs, cat gangsters, and the mysterious, evil Vanishings, Varjak learns the Seven Skills in the Way of Jalal, a secret martial art for cats. Mastering the Way helps the cat learn to trust his own instincts, which comes in handy after he decides to enlist the help of a dog to fight the evil cats and save his family. Varjak is a spirited adventurer who evolves gradually and believably into a courageous protagonist. By cleverly and adeptly relating the story through a cat's perspective, Said makes the novel especially fascinating. McKean's striking, black-and-white sketches add an edgy, haunting aspect to the tale, which is full of action, adventure, and suspense. The story is sure to leave readers looking forward to more about the formidable feline. Ed Sullivan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Cat karate kicks tail Oct. 31 2003
Format:Hardcover
Varjak Paw is the youngest cat in a cat family who want to sit and do nothing - they lack curiosity. His grandfather begins to tell him about the Way of Jalal, the cat martial art his ancestor invented, but Varjak is forced into the streets by strange intruders. He must make his way back to his family to defend both them and the other cats of the city using the Way of Jalal, which is taught to him by a cat master in his dreams.
This is a wonderful book, enhanced by vivid, stylised illustrations by Dave McKean, known for working with Neil Gaiman. There isn't any excessive cuteness, and the Horrible Fate menacing the cats is chilling. The illustrations in the middle of the pigeons in Trafalgar Square have real google-eyed pigeon personality. The writing is simple, not kids-book dumbed-down, and on the few occasions it doesn't meet its usual quality the illustrations carry it. Whether you're looking for a good young adult book, a good story, a 1st-class, non-sentimental cat book, or a tribute to kung fu flicks, this is an answer. Buy it, Little Grasshopper.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Paw Lives! May 21 2003
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. Falling somewhere in between child and adult fiction (and so finding the rare alchemy of appealing to both children and their parents) SF Said has created a world that explores the spiritual essence of 'cathood' as well as written a sweet coming-of-age story about a kitten who has the wrong coloured eyes. But I don't want to mislead you with allusions to charm and loveliness - this features a real, and terrifying antagonist - the Man with the Black Shoes. He is accompanied at all times by two huge, black cats who will destroy and kill anything on command.
When Varjak escapes to the Outside world (from his sheltered, protected upbringing) to find a Dog to scare off the Man with the Black Shoes who has killed his grandfather, he meets Holly - a streetwise, scruffy cat who educates him to the rules of the Gangs and the strange occurrings of the Vanishings.
Whilst all this is happening in the 'real' world, in his dreamlife, Varjak meanwhile is being taught the seven secrets by his legendary ancestor. During these moments we disappear into orange Mesopotamia where Varjak learns to hunt, become 'aware' and 'shadow-walk'.
The book is illustrated by Dave McKean - and this collaboration works wonderfully. Not only are his drawings and interpretations beautiful and striking, but Said's writing at times feels directly descended from the simplicity of the verbal narrative of graphic novels. Thus McKean's drawings are not mere accompaniments to a text, but the story might feel lacking without them.
This is a new and exciting world, and accomplished in its apparent simplicity. But I assure you there is nothing simple about this book: you will be thinking about the story for days, and if you are anything like me, will re-read it immediately and compulsively.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's a cat's life May 10 2004
Format:Library Binding
Enticed by the wonderful Dave McKean illustrations, I bought this even though it's a children's book. I love it! "Varjak Paw" is one of those crossover works which is sure to be a hit with young and old. I sense a cult classic in-the-making here. My only criticism is, I felt the ending was ever so slightly anti-climactic. Nevertheless, it's thought-provoking and highly imaginative, boasting a rich array of characters; some endearing, some scary - all memorable. It's also original, even if the 'hero having to learn and grow to find himself' theme is not. This book will stand up to repeat readings, which is important for young readers. You don't have to like cats to enjoy it, though you may look at them in a different way after reading "Varjak Paw".
What I would love now? For Pixar Productions, the makers of 'Finding Nemo', to make "Varjak" into a fabulous film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just Pawfect! June 29 2003
Format:Hardcover
My sister mailed me this wonderful book from London and my two children (7 & 12) both loved it, as did my husband (43)! I'm so glad it's available here now, I've been recommending it to all my girlfriends.
In many ways it's a real old fashioned story, with lots of peril and excitement, love and hate, goodies, baddies, and something in between. But Mr Said has a sly, modern way with dialogue - much of the banter between Varjak and Holly took me back to those old screwball Cary Grant pictures - delightful!
And there's a good moral too, but it's never overdone. My youngest found some of the "uncanny" passages, with the half-dead toys a bit frightening, but she's forever re-reading it, and my eldest just loved all that!
One of those books you'd just love to see the movie of. Go buy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book Sept. 3 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is a book about an indoor cat, named Varjak Paw, one of the youngest of his family. Then the person that has been his family's owner for generations dies and a man with two very strange black cats appears. Elder Paw, the oldest in the family, tells Varjak about the Way of Jalal, but much of it has been lost through the ages. Jalal is his ancestor who traveled from Mesopotamia to the Contessa's house (where they live now). Varjak sets out to the city to find a "dog" to help them. In his dreams he is taught by Jalal "the Way". In the city he makes new friends and new enemies. I don't want to give any more away so you'll have to read the book to find out the ending. The ending is very surprising.
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