Varjak Paw is a young cat, a Mesopotamian Blue, who lives with his family high on a hill in an old luxurious house surrounded by a high wall. Neither he nor any of his family for generations has ever been outside those walls! Varjak will be the first.
Varjak leaves home and goes out into the outer world one day after a sinister gentleman and his evil-looking black cats arrive at the house. Oh yes, the man feeds the Mesopotamian Blue family (caviar!), but they are not free. Varjak and his grandfather decide that they must go for help, but Elder Paw is killed by the black cats as he and Varjak try to escape. Varjak makes it over the wall, and discovers that the outside world is full of darkness and peril, too.
As Varjak struggles to survive in the outside world, he also begins to have vivid dreams when he is able to sleep. In those dreams, a long-dead relative, a Mesopotamian warrior/guru named Jalal, speaks to him and begins to teach him the ways of the warrior. Through these dreams Varjak learns the seven parts of The Way, and discovers his own natural abilities in this ancient martial arts. The question remains: Will Varjak be able to get help and return to save his family?
I thoroughly enjoyed Varjak Paw by S.F. Said, and wished I had known about it while I was still teaching 6th grade because my 6th graders would have absolutely loved listening to it as a read aloud. It’s my 4th book read for Carl Vs R.I.P. III Challenge, and since it was also a gold winner the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize in 2003, it also counts as one my read’s for the Book Awards Challenge. I enjoyed the story as well as the wonderful illustrations by Dave McKean, which added so much to the story. There is also a sequel, The Outlaw Varjak Paw, which I just picked up at the library and can’t wait to read.