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Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat

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"Before you go out into the world," Ming Miao told her five kittens, "you must know the true story of your ancestors...." And so begins the story of Sagwa of China, a mischievous, pearl white kitten. Sagwa lived in the House of the Foolish Magistrate, a greedy man who made up rules that helped only himself. One day, Sagwa fell into an inkwell and accidentally changed one of "Before you go out into the world," Ming Miao told her five kittens, "you must know the true story of your ancestors...." And so begins the story of Sagwa of China, a mischievous, pearl white kitten. Sagwa lived in the House of the Foolish Magistrate, a greedy man who made up rules that helped only himself. One day, Sagwa fell into an inkwell and accidentally changed one of the Foolish Magistrate's rules. Little did Sagwa know she would alter the fate—and the appearance—of Chinese cats forever!


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"Before you go out into the world," Ming Miao told her five kittens, "you must know the true story of your ancestors...." And so begins the story of Sagwa of China, a mischievous, pearl white kitten. Sagwa lived in the House of the Foolish Magistrate, a greedy man who made up rules that helped only himself. One day, Sagwa fell into an inkwell and accidentally changed one of "Before you go out into the world," Ming Miao told her five kittens, "you must know the true story of your ancestors...." And so begins the story of Sagwa of China, a mischievous, pearl white kitten. Sagwa lived in the House of the Foolish Magistrate, a greedy man who made up rules that helped only himself. One day, Sagwa fell into an inkwell and accidentally changed one of the Foolish Magistrate's rules. Little did Sagwa know she would alter the fate—and the appearance—of Chinese cats forever!

30 review for Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat

  1. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    I remember seeing the tv show based on this (I think, anyway) when I was a kid and wishing it was on after school so I could watch it. It looked so cute! This book is just as cute as the series, really - at least the story is. Since I listened to the audio book I have no idea if this is even a picture book (it's pretty short, though, so I'm guessing it is). Told as a folktale, "The Chinese Siamese Cat" is about a kitten named Sagwa, who caused all Chinese cats after her to have ink-dark markings I remember seeing the tv show based on this (I think, anyway) when I was a kid and wishing it was on after school so I could watch it. It looked so cute! This book is just as cute as the series, really - at least the story is. Since I listened to the audio book I have no idea if this is even a picture book (it's pretty short, though, so I'm guessing it is). Told as a folktale, "The Chinese Siamese Cat" is about a kitten named Sagwa, who caused all Chinese cats after her to have ink-dark markings (view spoiler)[ as well as how she helped a grumpy magistrate find happiness by winning over the hearts of his people (hide spoiler)] . Book written & read by Amy Tan (Phoenix books version).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wayne Walker

    Why do Siamese cats have dark ears, paws, and tails? Sagwa is a pearly-white Chinese kitten who lives with her parents, Baba and Mama Miao, and her two siblings, Dongwa and Sheegwa, in the House of the Foolish Magistrate, who is in charge of issuing rules for all the people and animals in his province and makes a lot of silly proclamations. One day the Foolish Magistrate writes a decree that no one can sing until the sun goes down. He doesn’t see Sagwa perched up high on a shelf. After he Why do Siamese cats have dark ears, paws, and tails? Sagwa is a pearly-white Chinese kitten who lives with her parents, Baba and Mama Miao, and her two siblings, Dongwa and Sheegwa, in the House of the Foolish Magistrate, who is in charge of issuing rules for all the people and animals in his province and makes a lot of silly proclamations. One day the Foolish Magistrate writes a decree that no one can sing until the sun goes down. He doesn’t see Sagwa perched up high on a shelf. After he leaves, Sagwa decides to do something about it, so she jumps down, lands in the inkpot, and gets ink on her ears, paws, and tail, but she also blots out the word “not” on the paper. When it is read, it will say, “People must sing until the sun goes down.” But what will the Foolish Magistrate do to Sagwa and her family when he finds out what has happened? When our boys were young, they occasionally watched the animated PBS series Sagwa. We even used some of the early reading books taken from the television show, which are credited to George Daugherty who produced it. One day while watching a segment with our younger son Jeremy, I noticed that it was based on characters taken from a children’s book by Amy Tan, whose name I recognized but had not read any of her books. Tan is well known for her adult novels, such as The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter. I like the story of Sagwa because, in addition to being a fun folk-like tale for youngsters, it exemplifies and encourages bravery in the face of injustice. Also, we are “cat people,” so it has a special interest for us. Originally published as The Chinese Siamese Cat, some editions are called Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat, most likely due to the popularity of the animated show.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cindie Harp

    2 of my 3 kids loved this book. The same 2 of 3 even love the PBS series which is based upon it. Ironically, the one that is not of the 2 is taking Mandarin. go figure

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    Remember that PBS Kids show Sagwa: The Chinese Siamese Cat? I was convinced that I’d hallucinated it or something for years, because I couldn’t find any record of it. Well, it’s real, and based on this charming story. Cats who can write are an endearing conceit.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Burkhart

    Especially for cat lovers! A sweet short story about an errant kitten.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kaila

    3.5 stars. Beautiful book, cute story. I loved the Sagwa show on PBS when I was younger, I had no idea it was based on a Tan story! I was very excited to come across this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa Walker

    I remember as a little kid there was a TV show on PBS kids called "Sagwa The Chinese Siamese Cat" & now that I am much older who would of thought that the book was the start of the show. I really enjoyed the book as much as the show. It's definitely a must read & a show to watch.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Becky B

    Ming Miao explains to her four kittens how Siamese cats got their dark tails, ears, noses, and paws. It is all do to a curious little white kitten named Sagwa who lived in a grumpy magistrate's house in China. She accidentally fell into an ink well, changed a law, brought healing to a land, and helped the magistrate see the error of his ways. This reads like a Chinese addition to Kipling's Just So Stories in that it somewhat ridiculously explains how an animal came to look a certain way and has Ming Miao explains to her four kittens how Siamese cats got their dark tails, ears, noses, and paws. It is all do to a curious little white kitten named Sagwa who lived in a grumpy magistrate's house in China. She accidentally fell into an ink well, changed a law, brought healing to a land, and helped the magistrate see the error of his ways. This reads like a Chinese addition to Kipling's Just So Stories in that it somewhat ridiculously explains how an animal came to look a certain way and has a moral lesson as well. The illustrations are very bright and colorful, but on some pages they almost seem too busy. (Of course, some traditional Chinese art and decor looks similar so I can't fault the artist for not making it feel authentic.) It is a cute story about a curious cat. And a nice multicultural addition to any library. I would probably mix in a lesson on how Siamese cats really get their coloring just to clarify for little kids. (It is based on temperature of the area at time of fur growth...the paws, tail, etc are the areas that get the least blood flow and thus are cooler and grow in a different color...sorry, the former Biology teacher in me just crept out there.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Samantha wickedshizuku Tolleson

    This book was adorably charming. It's about a cat so of course it's charming. The artstyle was fantastic, and the plot complex yet simple. There is a very important political theme to this, one that I think that current politico-s should take a lesson from. This should be easy enough for an advanced 2nd grader or a struggling 3rd grader. Don't let them miss out on it. Cheers!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*

    Loved the Sagwa tv show when I was a kid, and found out there was a book! The illustrations are exquisite and I adore the fact that a children's tv show came out of such an imaginative story.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    I had to check to see who the author was before reviewing, and was surprised to see Amy Tan! Some of the illustrations feature some pretty stereotypical renditions of Chinese characters (pigtail, prominent teeth), while others are classical in style, so I'd watch out for that... but otherwise, it's a very charming story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mikaela Fu

    This book infers the importance of different things in the Chinese community, through the lives of the cats. This book could be good to introduce kids to a culture that is different from their own. Lexile Measures- 850L Guided Reading- P Six Traits plus One-Presentation and Word Choice

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    Mother cat tells her kittens where their type of cat originally came from, China, not Siam, in an enchanting tale with beautiful illustrations.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Don Krajewski

    Great read for night time story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Why Chinese Siamese cats have black features

  16. 4 out of 5

    M Harris

    Beautiful and colorful illustrations. I really enjoyed the detail in the pictures!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    This is such a sweet kids book - I loved it!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    Ah, my childhood. Where I learned about peace, love, acceptance, and that the price of pissing off Chinese royalty is execution. Don't you just love memories? Ah, my childhood. Where I learned about peace, love, acceptance, and that the price of pissing off Chinese royalty is execution. Don't you just love memories? 😁

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    This is a cute story about Siamese cats. I love Siamese, so I had to read this book when I saw it on Overdrive. A mother cat is explaining to her kittens how they got their dark points.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Welsh

    This is the book that started my love for this author. I was young, but I can't remember how young, when I found it on a shelf in the library I volunteered at.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lesley Guest

    I love this little book. I'm a huge fan of Amy Tan. Beautiful illustrations

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angela Solon

    I loved this story growing up, & the animation even more! So glad I found them again! I loved this story growing up, & the animation even more! So glad I found them again! ☺

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Yamamoto

    Bought for my daughter

  24. 4 out of 5

    Min

    I watched the show, but never managed to get around to reading the book that started it all. A charming read about the gentle effects a pet can have upon our lives, and those around us; that is, even if they get into a moment of mischief. Read by the author, which I did enjoy very much.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brianna

    "Before you go out into the world," Ming Miao told her five kittens, "you must know the true story of your ancestors...." And so begins the children's story about Sagwa, a kitten that gets into trouble and teaches a valuable lesson. The story is set during the 1900 Qing Dynasty, and Amy Tan reveals a quirky tale about a family of cats that work for the Chinese Magistrate and change the laws of the land with a swish of a tail. Wonderful for children 6+, resonating themes include familial honor "Before you go out into the world," Ming Miao told her five kittens, "you must know the true story of your ancestors...." And so begins the children's story about Sagwa, a kitten that gets into trouble and teaches a valuable lesson. The story is set during the 1900 Qing Dynasty, and Amy Tan reveals a quirky tale about a family of cats that work for the Chinese Magistrate and change the laws of the land with a swish of a tail. Wonderful for children 6+, resonating themes include familial honor and loyalty. The book's popularity inspired an animated television series on PBS Kids that is both educational and entertaining: http://pbskids.org/sagwa/.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dolly

    This is a wonderful tale about a family of cats and their life in ancient China. Our girls have watched the television show Sagwa on PBS Kids and they love it. So, when we discovered the series was created by Amy Tan and was originally a book, we just had to find it at our local library. It is very nicely illustrated, and while it's a little bit different from the television show, the major elements are the same and we enjoyed this story very much.

  27. 5 out of 5

    April

    Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat animated TV series brought my attention to this book. This is the first time I listened to an audio book. It was narrated by the author herself. The story mentions the origin of Siamese cats which is fictional (Siam is not Chinese and is now known as Thailand). Regardless, the story line is interesting and cute. The description of every scene is lively. I would recommend young children to listen to this story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Childhood revisited! I had no idea that this was a book, having been a huge fan of the show as a kid. I even hit youtube to rewatch the intro, and it shows right there in opening credits "Based on the book The Chinese Siamese Cat by Amy Tan", kids clearly don't read credits and just want the show to start. I'm also happy to know that Amy Tan was a large part in creating the show too, so it all stuck close and loyal to the source material with some nice exceptions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    J-Lynn Van Pelt

    Sagwa is a cute creation folk tale about how Siamese cats got their unique coloring. It tells of Sagwa who is a Chinese pointed cat, not Siamese. Sagwa gets in a lot of mischeif and saves a village from an evil tyrant. This is an upper level picture book with a lot of text on a page. The pictures are intricate and detailed with elaborate borders. But, the stereotypical portrait of the evil Chinese man will probably require a critical discussion.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I love Amy Tan, and when I was back in high school babysitting, the girl I was watching brought this book to me. I didn't realize Tan wrote children books and it made me very happy to see the little girl enjoy her writing. It's a very sweet story and the illustrations are beautiful (I think the cartoon series is still played on PBS if Amy Tan fans want to check it out. It's very cute.)

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