Black Cat

by Christopher Myers

book talk

author/illustrator study

classroom connections

list of related books

web activity

links

Book talk

    "Black Cat" takes place in a city where the title character is roaming the streets.  It seems that the narrator,    is talking to the cat and asking questions.  The reader follows the cat through the city to seek the answer to the question, "Where do you live?"  The author continues to ask the question throughout the book.  Meanwhile, the reader is getting a first hand account of what the cat sees and where the cat roams.  Finally, at the end of the story the cat answers the question, "where's your home" with the response "anywhere I roam."

Critical Summary

At the end of this story you feel kind of sorry for the cat.  It makes you cherish your home, and realize that there are a lot of people and animals out there with no where to call home.  On the other hand, this book points out the joys of freedom as experienced by the cat.


Personal Reaction

It becomes obvious that the author of the story comes from a city just by looking at the illustrations throughout the story.  I could really visualize exactly what a large city might look like through the eyes of the cat.  The poem also portrayed life in the city, but in adult terms.  I find it hard to believe that this poem was written for children.  Children will definitely enjoy the illustrations, but the poem might be too complex for them to comprehend.  Depending on the aspects of the book discussed, the grade level appropriateness for this book would vary  I think the poem signifies where the author would go if he were a cat in the city.  I also like the way that the author used real pictures in his art.  I read another book, Slam, by Walter Dean Myers which also gives really vivid images of city life.
 - Chris Shivers

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Author/Illustrator study

Christopher Myers:
Christopher Myers is a recent graduate of Brown University and has completed the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Studio Program.  (1995-1996).  He currently lives in New York City.  Black Cat is Myers' first published book in which he both writes and illustrates.  He has previously done illustrations for books by his father, Walter Dean Myers.  These books include Malcolm X : By Any Means Necessary, The Glory Field, and Shadow of the Red Moon.
                                                                                                                                                               - - Natalie Orsini

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Classroom connections

    Black Cat could be used in the classroom to teach and start discussions about diversity, urban lifestyle, and unstable living conditions.  Students will notice the differences and similarities between their hometown and the city.  Students could also write about how they would feel if they were homeless and had nowhere to go.  The poetic writing style could help introduce poetry to traditional writing classes.  The uniqueness of Myers'  illustrations can serve as a model for students through various art projects.

These ideas are general and would have to be refined to suit the grade level and the particular students:

    Art -- Students will make a collage of a city, piecing together photos similar to the book's illustrative style.
      - Make a paper mache cat mask.

    Writing -- Students will write an essay discussing where they would call home if they were a stray cat.
        - Have students write a story as to why the cat is wondering the city.
       - Have students finish the story with their own ideas about where black cat says he lives.

    Discussion -- Students will discuss cities they have visited, describe the various scenery and whether or not
                          they saw cats during their travels.
        - Have students discuss why they think the cat is roaming the city as opposed to the country.  Have children
        draw a country scene for the cat.

    Social Studies -- Have students research their local SPCA and find out statistics about stray cats.

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List of related books

Cat Books:
Never Let Your Cat Make Lunch For You
Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Visual Introduction to Wild Cats by Bernard Stonehouse
Totally Fun Things To Do With Your Cat by Maxine Rock

City Books:
Bone Poems  by Jeff Moss
How To Take Your Grandmothers To The Museum by Lois Wyse and Molly Rose Goldman Goldman
Harlem by Walter Dean Myers

- Colleen Wheat
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Web activity

Students will each be given a sightseeing map of Washington D.C.  (obtained from http://www.sc94.ameslab.gov/TOUR/tour.html).

They will then be asked to map out where they would visit (4 out of the 10 locations) and will choose which locations they would like to use by looking up information on the internet.  The last location listed on the map will be the "home" of the student (similar to the black cat).

These sights include :

MCI Center : www.mcicenter.com
Vietnam Wall : www.vietnamwall.org
Lincoln Memorial : www.sc94.ameslab.gov/TOUR/linmem.html
Air and Space Museum : www.nasm.edu
Washington Monument : www.nps.gov/wamo/monument/monument.htm
Library of Congress : www.catalog.loc.gov
Museum of Natural History : www.amnh.org
White House : www.whitehouse.gov
National Gallery of Art : www.nga.gov
Ford's Theatre : www.fordstheatre.org

Students would finish their projects by writing a story about the four sites they have "visited."

- Bryan Cramer
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PAGE COMPILED BY :
Bryan Cramer
Christopher Shivers
Natalie Orsini
Colleen Wheat
Nicole Romano

Related Websites
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