#765 – Ketzel, the Cat who Composed by Lesléa Newman & Amy June Bates

Today is National Cat Day! In celebration of this day and the four-legged, furry creatures it honors, I would like to introduce you to a famous cat; one who changed a man’s life and possibly a few classical music fans as well. Here is Ketzel, a cat who actually composed music. Enjoy!


Ketzel the Cat who Composed
Ketzel, the Cat who Composed

Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Candlewick Press      10/06/2015
32 pages      Ages 5—8

Junior Library Guild Selection
“Moshe Cotel lives on a noisy street in a noisy city. But Moshe didn’t mind. EAs a composer, everything he heard was music to his ears. One day, while out for a walk, he heard something he’d never heard on the street before. It was a tiny kitten!

“Come, little Ketzel,” Moshe said. “I will take you home, and we will make beautiful music together.”

“And they did.” [inside jacket]

Morris Moshe Cotel was a composer who learned how to play piano from an early age. He also learned to listen to everything. Because of this, Cotel heard most everything on his noisy New York street, including a small kitten huddled against a building. Ketzel became a wonderfully lucky kitten. Cotel loved the little cat and the cat returned the affection.

A letter from the Paris New Music Review arrived announcing a One Minute Composition contest. Cotel was unsure if such a composition was even possible, given it would need a beginning, middle, and an end, all in 60 seconds or less. He tried, became discouraged, and gave up. One day, Cotel read the contest letter once more—with Ketzel reading along (or seeming to)—but he gave up and tossed the letter on a nearby table. Ketzel, sitting at her normal spot on the piano, put one paw down on the keys and then walked across them until she launched onto the table holding the letter. Cotel was more than amazed he was amused.

“Ketzel, that was magnificent! Ketzel, you’re a genius!”

Grabbing a pencil, Cotel wrote the notes Ketzel had played. It was a perfect 60-second composition with all the necessary parts. Cotel entered the cat’s composition into the contest writing,

“Piece for Piano: Four Paws,” was written by Ketzel Cotel. It is her first composition. She hopes you enjoy it.”

Then one day, long enough for Cotel to have forgotten about the entry, a letter arrives. Ketzel’s piece won a Special Mention in the 1997 Paris New Music Review’s 60 Seconds for Piano International Competition. The letter said Ketzel did not win, yet the judges awarded her “a certificate of special mention” for her “creative instinct and imagination.”


First thing to understand, Ketzel, the Cat who Composed is a true story. Ketzel’s story slightly baffles, yet completely amazes me. Cats are intuitive and can understand how their human companions feel, even if they cannot put a name to that emotion. While most often cats will not react, on the occasions they do, it is impressive. Ketzel may have written her composition completely by chance, but it matters only what Cotel thought.

Bates’ watercolor, gouache, and pencil illustrations enhance the story beautifully. She uses a palette of gold and yellow and dramatically captures the story, especially the spreads with Cotel playing his piano. I love the spread with Ketzel, a small kitten, walking across the keyboard, playing her 60-minute composition for the first time. Bates captures the essence of this adorable six-toed black-and-white cat, whom she has given sparkling blue eyes.



Kids will love Ketzel, the Cat who Composed and may find a new respect for felines. This awesome story will engage young children with its vibrant action, emotional breadth, and adorable kitten. Ketzel’s story is the stuff of good fiction, made better by the fact that it actually happened. “Awesome,” is what kids will say after hearing or reading Ketzel, the Cat who Composed.

Ketzel lived to the grand age of 19, passing away in July of 2011. She was only three when fame first came her way. The word Ketzel is Yiddish for “kitten.”

At stories end, the Author’s Note fills in the details of Ketzel and Morris Moshe Cotel’s true story.

KETZEL, THE CAT WHO COMPOSED. Tet copyright © 2015 by Lesléa Newman. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Amy June Bates. Reproduce by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Purchase Ketzel, the Cat who Composed at AmazonBook DepositoryIndieBound BookCandlewick Press.

Learn more about Ketzel, the Cat who Composed HERE.

Meet the author, Lesléa Newman, at her website:  http://www.lesleakids.com/
Blog       Facebook       Twitter      @lesleanewman
Meet the illustrator, Amy June Bates, at her website:  http://www.amybates.com/
Blog       Facebook       Twitter      @amyjunebates
Find more books at the Candlewick Press website: http://www.candlewick.com/
Scribd     Facebook       Twitter       @Candlewick

New for 2015 by Lesléa Newman
Heather Has Two Mommies
My Name Is Aviva
Here Is The World: A Year of Jewish Holidays
Hachiko Waits
.          .—and many more

New for 2015 by Amy June Bates
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull
Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen
Beach House by Deanna Caswell (reviewed here)
The Next-Door Dogs by Colby Rodowsky
.          . —and many more

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

Full Disclosure: Ketzel, the Cat who Composed by Lesléa Newman & Amy June Bates, and received from Candlewick Press, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

KETZEL, THE CAT WHO COMPOSED by Lesléa Newman. Illustrations © 2015 by Amy June Bates. Used by permission of Candlewick Press.

cat day


11 thoughts on “#765 – Ketzel, the Cat who Composed by Lesléa Newman & Amy June Bates

  1. Ketzel is brilliant. Once I played the piano with my face. I was trying to reach a fly. I didn’t catch him , but later Mom did. My song didn’t win any prizes.

    Love and licks,


  2. Reblogged this on Stories from the Hearth and commented:

    Just in time for National Cat Day comes this wonderful blog post from KitLit here on WordPress. What a lovely story and amazing cat-human relationship the book describes. The illustrations are as adorable as this real-life event. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face and want to make you purr. Thanks for this, KitLit!


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