cover image The Cat at the Wall

The Cat at the Wall

Deborah Ellis. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $16.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-55498-491-6

"The best thing about being a cat is that nothing is my fault," says 13-year-old Clare, who died in Bethlehem, Pa., and has been reincarnated as a cat in another Bethlehem%E2%80%94the one in the West Bank. As a human girl, Clare taunted her sister, manipulated her parents, and butted heads with her homeroom teacher; these and other memories are triggered by Clare's current situation, as the narrative nimbly jumps between past and present. In Israel, Clare witnesses the horrors of life in a war zone on both sides of the "Big Wall." Her life mainly consists of foraging for food until two soldiers with the Israel Defense Forces%E2%80%94one American, one Israeli, and each with his own motives for being in the army and beliefs about the conflict%E2%80%94commandeer a Palestinian house to do surveillance on a neighboring building; Clare decides to help the traumatized boy hiding in the house. Ellis's (No Ordinary Day) premise is an unusual one, but with it she crafts a thought-provoking and sensitive story about the power of empathy and selflessness. Ages 9%E2%80%9312. (Sept.)