It is an after school arts and academic center in an inner city neighborhood. I have four different groups of kids. Today we read the book, The Boy Who Drew Cats. What will I learn?
A small Japanese boy, not strong enough to work the fields, is sent to study with a priest. He loves to draw cats and does so on the priest’s books and temple walls. He is sent away with the advice, Avoid large places at night; keep to small.
He walks to the next town’s temple. It is possessed by a goblin, but he doesn’t know this. He lets himself in and begins again to draw cats on the walls until he gets sleepy. He crawls inside a cabinet and slides the door shut. There are horrible fighting sounds outside the cabinet.
At this point, I stop reading the story and we begin to draw cats (on paper, not the book or the walls, or course.) The children talk as they imitate my simple cat drawing, trace a cat from the book, or draw several of their own. The conversations are full of facts from their experiences–what they know about cats, Japan, kids that draw on walls, noises at night, and Hello Kitty. I listen.
We return to the story. The next page of the book shows the tail of an enormous dead goblin rat…as big as a cow. There is blood everywhere, even on the mouths of the cat pictures.
What do you think happened? I ask.
The children get busy coloring their cats’ mouths red and talking of whether or not these cats came to life, rats, and blood.
What did I learn?
Children amaze me with their confidence, imagination and spirit.