This picture book tells a story not commonly known where I live (in the United States).
It’s based on an event that really happened in the 1400’s – the Elizabeth’s Day Flood.
“On November 5, 1421, St. Elizabeth’s Day, a violent storm blew in from the North Sea, breaking through the dikes and flooding a small village in South Holland.”
The book tells the story of a cat, a baby, and a terrible flood.
It takes place in Holland and yes, the cat and the baby do survive the devastating flood.
It’s a story that celebrates our animal friends who can be quite amazing and who often love us dearly. This particular cat – Katje – is tremendously loyal and heroic.
It all starts on page one of the story with these words: “Katje had an easy life.” No mention of a storm until a few sentences later when we learn that: “Nico watched for storms.”
Isn’t that a bit how it can be in real life? Wisdom from the first page of a small children’s book. Do you see yourself in the characters of the story? Are you Katje or Nico? All the time or some of the time?
The book challenges us to consider the possibility that “just a cat” can save a baby.
Here are a few of the beautiful illustrations by Nicola Bayley from Katje the Windmill Cat:
Katje the Windmill Cat was written by Gretchen Woelfle and illustrated by Nicola Bayley, published in 2001 by Candlewick Press. The book was first published in a somewhat different form in Spider magazine (an Easter Egg we found by reading the copyright page).
We discovered Katje the Windmill Cat at our local library. Thank goodness for libraries, and for Candlewick Press. Our children’s librarian pulls books and displays them on top of the stacks (stacks are library shelves). One of our favorite strategies for discovering new stories is to simply swipe the displayed books and take them home to read. We discover all kinds of goodies in this way. And it’s that is how we found this GEM💍.
I suspect I would have never noticed this story if I was just skimming over the book titles on the spine. Librarian picks are always a way to find wonderful books that aren’t among the most popular stories (but are every bit as a good).
In addition to librarians you can also count on Candlewick Press as a source for great children’s literature.
Fun Facts and Easter Eggs
The author, Gretchen Woelfle, visited the actual site in the Netherlands where this story took place.
This book was typeset in Calligraphic. The illustrations were done in watercolor pencils. Both tidbits of info are wonderful to share with kids who are budding artists.
Nicola Bayley, who illustrated this story, has illustrated quite a few stories about cats. She caught the eye of a publisher at her degree art show … and has been illustrating ever since.
Great for Kids Who …
Katje the Windmill Cat is a picture book.
Read aloud to children as young as four. The text in this picture book is a bit more extensive – so gauge for yourself how well it is received. You may need to put it aside for later with some young kids.
Since this book covers a historical event you can use it older children who are studying the subjects found in the story – all the way up to 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.
Enjoyable for ALL AGES and anyone who:
- Loves cats
- Loves books based on true stories
- Is interested in weather events (like flooding), history, and mechanical gadgets (like windmills)
Subjects featured include: floods, windmills, cats, history of Holland, geography
What Kids Can Learn About in this Book
- Windmills – What they are, how they work, their historical significance and how they are used today
- Dikes – What they are and how they are used, especially for low-lying countries like the Netheralnds
- Significant water events in history
- The Netherlands (world geograpy)
How to Read This Book
From your local library. If the book is not in their collection ask them to obtain a copy for you via interlibrary loan.
Buy a copy of your very own
- New from Amazon (paperback)
- Available used in hardback from a variety of used book sellers