A stirring tale of friendship based on the legend of the Lucky Cat.

Under the shadow of the white-capped mountains of Japan, a white cat with unusual markings arrives at the door of a rundown temple. A kind and gentle monk takes him in and names him Tama, Lucky Cat.

Tama watches as his new master teaches Buddha's ways to small gatherings of poor farmers. The monk worries about the people's welfare, ignoring his own empty stomach. One night in a powerful thunderstorm, Tama sees a towering warlord on a white horse. The cat beckons the warrior to him just as a large branch crashes to the ground and lands right where the warlord had previously stood. In gratitude to Tama for saving his life, the warlord lavishes gifts on the temple and makes it his family's place of honor.

Tama has truly earned his nickname - "Lucky Cat."


Author Photo

Wendy Henrichs was inspired to write I Am Tama, Lucky Cat when she adopted two cats. One of them had a habit of raising her paw while sitting, just like a Japanese Lucky Cat figurine. Curiosity about the legends behind Lucky Cat led her to the story of Tama. She lives in Iowa.

Author Photo

Yoshiko Jaeggi's work has appeared in Cricket Magazine. She is the illustrator of Monsoon Afternoon and My Dadima Wears a Sari. She lives in Maryland.



“...This is a picture book with lovely illustrations. The water-painting effect and soft colors give me a peaceful feeling. The author does not only write a story about a lucky cat, but she fills it with Japanese culture and Buddha's teaching as well...” ―Chronicles of Mia blog

“Wendy Henrichs has elegantly captured one of the possible origins of Maneki Neko, the Japanese waving cat...This poignant tale, told with a light lyrical prose and combined with Yoshiko Jaeggi's beautiful watercolors, creates a lovely picture book to enjoy with children...” ―Living Peacefully With Children blog

“...Watercolor images of the flowering trees and carp pond surrounding the rundown temple evoke the serenity of its setting near a holy mountain. This beautiful picture book for all ages includes short historical notes about the legend's origins...” ―A Book and a Hug blog

“...It is beautifully illustrated, with simple text, just right for the children...” ―Little Mermy Books blog

“...Jaeggi lavishes care on the watercolor illustrations, in which everyday features of Japanese life add historical and architectural interest...” ―Publishers Weekly

“...The qualities of compassion and generosity that are gently demonstrated and the theme of virtue rewarded are undeniably laudable...Jaeggi's lovely watercolors reflect the serene tone and evoke the exotic setting, and her use of panels echoes traditional Japanese artwork...” ―Kirkus

“...I loved this book! I loved the illustrations, the story, and how it was told...I felt lucky myself, to have had the opportunity to read it...This is definitely a book I would add to my own personal library and also would like to see in our school library.” ―Quixotic Magpie blog

“...Heinrich's almost lyrical style of telling the story, combined with Jaeggi's absolutely charming illustrations, create a special magic...This beautiful book is aimed at children ages 4-8, but I think adults will enjoy it equally as much.” ―Conscious Cat blog

“...delightful and visually appealing...Does Tama succeed? How did he earn the name of 'Lucky Cat?' You will have to read this wonderful book to find out.” ―Cat Chat blog

“...In short, a wondrous story with beautiful images to spark the imagination of the young and the young at heart. It may have been created for younger readers, but I'll bet you anything that adults get just as much out of this read as the kiddos...” ―Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers blog

“...Wendy Henrichs has done a smashing good job bringing the Japanese legend of the Lucky Cat to life... [Readers] will benefit from this lesson about the importance of generosity and kindness and companionship between humans and animals.” ―Spirituality and Practice

“...a warm, reassuring story.” ―Virginian Pilot online/Hampton Roads

“...Concise, vivid details clearly establish this book's exotic, ancient setting...Embodying kindness, generosity, patience, and friendship, both Wendy's animal tales entertain readers while subtly directing them towards better behavior...” ―Writers' Voices blog

“Evocative watercolor illustrations capture ancient Japan in this picture-book retelling of the lucky-cat legend...With its compelling story and stunning art, this is a worthy addition.” ―School Library Journal

“...A charming book to spice up your world geography report or to share with younger friends...Watercolor images of the flowering trees and carp pond surrounding the rundown temple evoke the serenity of its setting near a holy mountain. This beautiful picture book for all ages includes short historical notes about the legend's origins...” ―Books YA Love blog

“I have always been fond of this tale and this is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the Japanese legend of Maneki Neko.” ―Rogue Librarian blog

“After he takes in a hungry cat, a poor monk finds that good fortune and friendship come his way. Expressive watercolor illustrations.” ―Bank Street College of Education

“...comprised of graceful text from debut author Wendy Henrichs, and breathtaking watercolor illustrations from award-winning illustrator Yoshikio Jaeggie.” ―Midwest Book Review


Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award ―Oppenheim Toy Portfolio 2011

Storytelling World Resource Awards (honor, Stories for Young Listeners) ―Storytelling World magazine 2012

Best Children's Books of the Year (starred) ―Bank Street College of Education 2012

Society of School Librarians International Book Awards (honor book, Language Arts K-6 picture books) ―Society of School Librarians International 2012