The Cats in the Doll Shop

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The Cats in the Doll ShopWhat the Book is About:

In this charming sequel to The Doll Shop Downstairs, Anna is now 11. She still plays with dolls, but there’s something new to focus on: the neighborhood stray cat is having kittens. Anna is desperate to take one home, but Papa won’t allow it, and she can’t seem to change his mind. Meanwhile, cousin Tania comes to live with the family and struggles to adapt after the difficulties she experienced back in wartime Russia. Eventually Tania and the kitten help each other to heal and to become members of the family.    

Jewish Content and Values

  • The setting is a Jewish neighborhood on the Lower East Side of New York City. Anna's parents speak Yiddish and the family eats traditional Jewish foods such as borscht, corned beef, tzimmes, and challah.
  • The family dress up and go to shul on holidays. They invite guests over for a festive meal to celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and they make latkes and light the menorah on Hanukkah.
  • The children are encouraged to perform acts of charity (tzedakah).

Positive Role Models

  • Anna is compassionate and kind. She realizes that her cousin Tania is very poor and decides to make her a doll as a welcome present, and when Tania finds it difficult to leave behind the emotional difficulties of her old life, Anna is patient with her. Anna desperately wants to give the stray mother cat and kitten a home and she takes the initiative in finding a way to rescue and look after them.
  • Mama and Papa welcome Tania into their home even though they live in a very small apartment where the children share not only rooms, but, initially, beds. Papa allows the girls to leave out food for the cats even though at first, he doesn’t want them in the house. Later, he is willing to be persuaded by the children to change his mind. Mama is patient with Tania, and her compassion helps Tania to confide in her and begin to adjust to life in New York.

Content Advisory

When the cat has her kittens, a cruel man sweeps them off the fire escape. They fall two stories and only the mother cat and one kitten survive. Later, the man puts out poison to try to kill the kitten. These dramatic scenes may upset some readers, but they are very short, and all ends well for the cat and kitten. When Tania first arrives, it is clear that she has had a very difficult time before arriving in the United States. She is unable to accept affection, hoards her food, and has a nervous blink, but under the warmth and care of the family, her emotional wounds heal. Despite these two scenes, the overall tone of the story is sweet and charming.

Talk it Over

Tania disobeys Papa’s clear instructions not to bring Plucky indoors. She hides the kitten in a cupboard under the stairs and cares for him until he becomes healthy and tame. If you were in that situation, would you obey Papa, or would you do what Tania did, and why?

More For You

During World War One, around 140,000 Jews fought for Germany and Austria, and on the opposite side, 350,000 fought for Russia and about 70,000 for France and Britain, including the first wholly Jewish legion for Britain. Many Jewish soldiers were reluctant to fight against their Jewish brethren on the opposing side. Around 600,000 Jewish civilians were displaced in Russia, where Tania is from in The Cats in the Doll Shop.

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