Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis

A review by Nalini Haynes

The Cat at the Wall is Clare, a reincarnated 13-year-old who was finishing grade 8 when she died. Clare scavenges for food near the Bethlehem wall dividing Jews and Arabs. She observes this new world, commenting on the electricity on one side of the wall that is absent on the other. Fleeing cats intent on hurting her, Clare races into a house as it’s invaded by two Israeli soldiers spying for terrorists.

Inside, Clare observes the poverty of an absent Arab family before she realizes one family member — a young boy, Omar — is hiding in a concealed cellar. Although it runs against Clare’s selfish nature, she tries to help when she hears his asthma impeding his breathing.

This exposes Omar to the soldiers.

Language barriers, fear and racism come to the fore.

Clare’s last year as a girl in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is contrasted skillfully with life on the West Bank as a tension-filled story unfolds.

And the end? Brilliant. Especially the big reveal about how Clare died. AWESOME.

The beauty of The Cat at the Wall is that it is suitable for primary-school aged readers unlike Paper Planes by Allayne L Webster. Although both are beautifully written with relatable child protagonists in war zones, Paper Planes features attempted suicide, rape, eating family pets, corruption and general brutality.

The Cat at the Wall features a conflict-filled environment, racism and threats of extreme violence that are avoided via a peaceful protest and other creative behaviours. Ellis promotes empowerment of individuals whilst enlarging our horizons.  I highly recommend The Cat at the Wall for readers of all ages, including ages 8 and up. I predict awards.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781760112448
Format: Paperback, 160 pages
Imprint: A & U Children (Allen & Unwin)
Category: Children’s fiction
The Cat at the Wall : a cat on a wall with Middle Eastern buildings behind, a transparent girl looks down on the cat