Project Description


I am Tama, Lucky Cat

A Japanese Legend

by Wendy Henrichs
illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi

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

Tama watches as his new master teaches Buddha’s ways to poor farmers, caring for their welfare while ignoring his own empty stomach. Tama truly earns his nickname―“Lucky Cat,” when during a powerful thunderstorm, he sees a towering warlord on a white horse. The cat beckons the warrior forward just as a large branch crashes to the ground and lands right where the warlord had previously stood. In gratitude to Tama, the warlord lavishes gifts on the monk’s poor temple.

In a marriage of graceful text based on one of the legends of Maneki Neko―“beckoning cat,”  in early Edo-period Japan―and breathtaking watercolor illustrations, debut author Wendy Henrichs and award-winning illustrator Yoshiko Jaeggi offer a beautiful story of friendship, generosity, and kindness.

Format: Hardcover
Price: $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-589-8
Publication Date: 8/1/2011
Page Count: 32
Size: 8-1/4″ x 10″
Age Range: 5 – 9
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Price: $7.99
ISBN: 978-1-56145-916-2
Publication Date: 2/1/2016
Page Count: 32
Size: 8-1/4″ x 10″
Age Range: 5 – 9
Language: English
AR Level: 4.4
F&P: GRL P, Gr 3, Genre TL
Lexile: AD830L
Themes: Buddhism, Japanese culture, Kindness, Legends
BISAC 1: JUV002050 JUVENILE FICTION / Animals / Cats
BISAC 2: JUV022000 JUVENILE FICTION / Legends, Myths & Fables
BISAC 3: JUV030020 JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / Asia


“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

“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 Reviews

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

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“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 Yoshiko Jaeggi.” ―Midwest Book Review

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

“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

“Henrich’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

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

“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

“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

“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

“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

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Best Children’s Books of the Year (Starred) ―Bank Street College of Education, 2012

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award ―Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, 2011

Society of School Librarians International Book Awards (Honor Book, Language Arts K-6 Picture Books) ―Society of School Librarians International, 2012

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

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Meet the Author

Wendy Henrichs was inspired to write her wonderful picture book 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.

Meet the Illustrator

Yoshiko Jaeggi was trained in her native Japan at the Osaka Municipal Institute of Fine Art and has illustrated several children’s books. She lives in Maryland. You can visit her website here.