Calabash Cat

Presentation by: Emily Bailie

Information About the Book

Author and Illustrator: James Rumford

Genre: Fiction

Topic/Theme: A journey around the world to discover the answer to an impossible question.


  • Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award (2004)
  • Golf Seal Oppenheim (2004)

About James Rumford

James Rumford was born in Southern California. He had always loved learning and studying new languages, having studied twelve languages throughout his life. He joined the Peace Corps and with that experience was given the opportunity to travel to many countries. In 1996 he started writing and illustrating children's books. While in Chad, Africa he bought a Calabash designed cat. After he bought the wooden cat he came up with the idea for the book, Calabash Cat. The book was written in English as well as the Arabic dialect of Chad so that way his friends from this area can read the book as well.

What more information about James Rumford? Check out the link to his personal blogspot below.

What is a Calabash Cat?

The author bought a Calabash Cat when he went to the country of Chad in Africa. Calabash is a gourd that is used to make utensils and tools in the African culture. The print on the cat is an African Folk Tale pattern.


The illustrations in this book are very unique and simple. There is very little color that encompasses the book except the single line behind the animal in symbolism of where the cat went. The entire book is also done with the arabic language of chadian calligraphy.

Criteria For High Quality Multicultural Literature

  • Be Rich In Cultural Details: The Calabash Cat has many different aspects about the Chad culture. First, the whole concept behind the Calabash Cat is based off the Calabash cat that the author bought when living in Chad. Calabash is similar to a gourd and is used in many African cultures as utensils and tools still to this day. The pattern on the cat is a folk art pattern something that is commonly seen in this tribe of people and all over Africa. The cat also explores all over the world---ranging from the desert, to the ocean and grassland. The book has also been written in the Arabian dialect of Chadian. The illustrations are simple but unique with all of the animals featuring the folk art pattern.
  • Invite reflection, critical analysis and response: The book makes you think about perspective and allows you to critically reflect on that. As each animal showed the cat where they thought the word ended they soon realized that was not the case. Because of that it makes you think about what is out there besides the bubble that you yourself lives in and how that changes your opinions.
  • Demonstrate unique language or style: One thing that is wonderful about this particular book is that it also includes the dialect of Chadian. This is a very unique thing as it is something that is not commonly seen in books written by English authors. This dialect is very rarely written and is usually spoken. In order to write the language the author had to copy the writing of a native from Chad. It adds to the book immensely by truly immersing you into the culture.

Lesson Idea

  • Second

Standard: RL.2.2

  • Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson or moral.


  • Students will be able to identify and anylyze the main lesson/moral in the story.


  • The teacher will read the story Calabash Cat.
  • The teacher will then ask the following comprehension questions throughout the story: What do you think will happen next? Why do you think the cat followed all of these animals? What did the cat learn?


  • The teacher will ask the students who remembers what the theme or main point of a story is? The students will give a variety of answers that should be correct because this is something they have previously learned.
  • The students will then be told that the moral of story is like the main idea but it makes you dig deeper. The moral of the story is often something you have to think about rather than just find in the text.
  • What do you think the moral of the story is in Calabash Cat?
  • Students should mention things similar to perspective.
  • The teacher will tell them that the perspective is the view at which someone looks at something.
  • The teachers will have them think, pair, share with their elbow partners on a time when their perspective effected an opinion that they had. The whole group will then share their ideas.
  • The teacher will hand each student a t-table chart. One side will say character and one side will say perspective and why they would have that perspective. They will go through each animal and describe that characters perspective. They will work on their own.
  • Once the students completed this they will pair and share with their elbow partner


  • The students will be asked to write a short story with the moral of the story being about perspective.
  • The students will be given and graded by a rubric.

Emily Bailie

Calabash Cat Reading by Emily Bailie

APA Citation for Calabash Cat

Rumford, J. (2003). Calabash cat . New York, New York : Houghton Mifflin Books