Cover image for Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese cat
Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese cat
Tan, Amy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, [2001]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Ming Miao tells her kittens about the antics of one of their ancestors, Sagwa of China, that produced the unusual markings they have had for thousands of years.
General Note:
"The book that inspired the hit PBS KIDS animated series!"

Previously published as The Chinese Siamese Cat.
Reading Level:
630 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 5.1 0.5 57729.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.9 2 Quiz: 26606 Guided reading level: O.
Geographic Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Eggertsville-Snyder Library X Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

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Author Notes

Amy Tan was born on February 19, 1952 in Oakland, California. She received B.A. degrees in English and linguistics and a master's degree in linguistics from San Jose State University. She worked as a freelance business writer, but eventually turned to fiction. Her first book, The Joy Luck Club, won the Commonwealth Gold Award and was adapted into a feature film in 1994. Her other novels include The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter's Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and The Valley of Amazement. She is also the author of a memoir entitled The Opposite of Fate and two children's books entitled The Moon Lady and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 6-9. Ming Miao tells her kittens the story of their ancestor, Sagwa of China, to explain the dark markings on their faces and tails. Sagwa lives in the house of the Foolish Magistrate, his foolishness taking the form of impossible rules. When he declares that no one can sing until the sun goes down, Sagwa changes the rule by falling into an ink pot and getting paws, ears, nose, tail, and selected parts of the Scroll of Rules covered in ink. The Foolish Magistrate has a change of heart after everyone begins following the new rule--people must sing until the sun goes down--and becomes the Wise Magistrate, beginning by forgiving Sagwa. Though the story has some inherent charm, the telling is overly long, often dragging. Schields' decorative, ornate illustrations are a running commentary on the elaborately staged tale, reflecting content and tone with a splashy if somewhat garish vigor. ~--Janice Del Negro

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this charming original folktale from the pair who produced The Moon Lady , a mother cat tells her kittens the true story of their ancestry: ``You are not Siamese cats but Chinese cats.'' She proudly informs them that they are descended from Sagwa of China, who lived during the reign of the Foolish Magistrate. Sagwa's parents, we learn, had the hapless task of dipping their tails in ink to record the dour dictates of the Foolish Magistrate. After inadvertently landing in the ink pot one day (hence acquiring the familiar dark markings of the Siamese cat), Sagwa uses her blackened pawprints to delete the word ``not'' from the magistrate's latest ruling, whereupon it is promulgated that ``People must sing until the sun goes down.'' Foolish Magistrate is outraged, but when he suddenly realizes his subjects are chanting his praises, he changes his tune, reversing the laws and declaring that henceforth all Chinese felines will have dark faces, ears, paws and tails--in honor of Sagwa. Featuring inventive borders and vivid, if occasionally garish hues, Schield's energetic illustrations prove, once again, an atmospheric counterpart to Tan's vivacious narration. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-A Siamese cat tells her children about their ``great ancestor, Sagwa of China.'' That feline started off as a mischievous, pearl-white kitten who lived with her parents in the house of a greedy, autocratic magistrate. Her penchant for trouble lands her in a pot of ink, which stains her paws, nose, ears, and tail. The accident starts a chain of events that leads to the magistrate's tearful reformation, as well as to generations of cats that look Siamese but are actually Chinese. The artwork is a pastiche of images drawn from different sources. Many borders reproduce ancient Chinese textile patterns. While some of the human figures seem to have stepped from poster art done in the style of socialist realism, most resemble contemporary paintings from mass-produced Chinese New Year calendars. Librarians with long memories might recognize Kurt Wiese's exaggerated caricatures in the features of the magistrate and his Reader of Rules. Human and feline emotions are overdrawn and clichéd, and the tightly controlled, prolix compositions employ a cacophony of colors. With its lengthy, precious text and derivative art, this whimsical look at Imperial China falls far short of the standards set by innovative artists working within the Chinese tradition, notably Nancy Ekholm Burkert, Meilo So, and Ed Young. Chinese or Siamese, this cat is strictly a commercial product and hardly worth considering.-Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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