Catwings (Book #1)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paperback, 1990



Local notes






Orchard Books (1990), 48 pages


Four young cats with wings leave the city slums in search of a safe place to live, finally meeting two children with kind hands.


Utah Beehive Book Award (Nominee — Children's Fiction — 1991)
Kentucky Bluegrass Award (Nominee — Grades 4-8 — 1990)
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — Grades 3-5 — 1992)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

48 p.; 5.25 x 0.25 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member alana_leigh
After recently reading what I at first considered to be my first Ursula K. Le Guin work, I was reminded of the fact that I was quite wrong... and that as a child, I had actually loved two Le Guin books, though that may have been because they included the young-Alana prerequisite for any good book:
Show More

Catwings focuses on the Tabby family, or rather, the four children of Mrs. Jane Tabby. Without a father and with their home in a neighborhood that was growing worse, Mrs. Jane Tabby has her paws full and so there was no real time to worry much about the fact that her children had wings. There comes a point when Mrs. Tabby believes that her children need to leave and find a better life for themselves, and so she insists that they use their wings to fly away and do just that. She is left behind, newly engaged to a good tomcat, and while her words are a bit brusque, no one doubts that all Mrs. Tabby wants is the best life possible for her children. So Thelma, Roger, James, and Harriet fly into the country, where they make a life for themselves, but learn that life can be just as dangerous there as it was in the city. Ultimately, they befriend two human children who understand that they can never tell anyone about the flying cats or everyone would try to trap them. Instead, they give the cats a home in the top of their family's barn and the story ends happily with the semi-domestication of the flying cats.

Catwings Returns focuses primarily on James and Harriet, who decide that they wish to visit their mother in the old neighborhood, and so they leave their siblings in the country for what is supposed to be a simple visit. (Roger and Thelma believe the children they have befriended would be far too worried if everyone left, so they stay behind.) Of course, when James and Harrier arrive, they find that construction crews are demolishing the neighborhood, their mother is nowhere to be found, and their attention is caught by a mewing sound -- which turns out to be a black winged kitten in a condemned building. With patience, they befriend the kitten (who clearly must be their mother's kitten, they believe, given the wings) and manage to save him in the knick of time from the encroaching bulldozers. They find Mrs. Jane Tabby in a rooftop garden, their mother having recently been taken in by an old woman after the first bulldozers drove her from the neighborhood. Her husband was away on business (and she seems little concerned with his loss) and she cannot get down from the rooftop garden, but now that she knows her kitten is safe, Mrs. Jane Tabby is perfectly content to stay right where she is -- provided James and Harriet take her kitten with them to the country. They do so and the kitten is named Jane, happy in her new country surroundings with her older siblings.

There were two other books in the Catwings Collection -- named Marvelous Alexander and the Catwings and Jane on her Own -- but they never really captured me the way the first two did. At the time, I was charmed by the drawings and, let's face it, any story that featured kitties. Now that I'm older and know a bit more about Le Guin's work, I find them to be embedded with deeper concepts about parenthood, survival, independence, and trust. With Le Guin's interest in gender roles, it's unsurprising that we have a strong single mother and a similarly strong female leader in Thelma. The dangers of the world are quite present, both in the city and the country, and Le Guin is not afraid to make those manifest in attacks on the individuals and long-term repercussions.

I hadn't been that keen on picking up another Le Guin book after reading a series of her stories for adults, but this re-read of Catwings may have actually won her another chance. It's all a bit deeper than the simple story of flying cats and touches upon ideas of growing up and finding one's own way in the world (though there's still a healthy reliance on family). Catwings: not just for kitty-obsessed kids anymore. Though if you have one of those, then you should definitely introduce them to Mrs. Tabby and her children.
Show Less
LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Jane Tabby is as confused as anybody why her four little kittens are born with wings. But her primary concern is making sure they are safe, and the addition of wings mean they can fly away to a better place than the dumpster where they live now. As the four little kittens embark on life without
Show More
their mother, they encounter other animals and potential dangers.

As a child I read this book and loved it. As an adult, it didn't quite hold the same appeal, but I'm sure other young readers will love it as much as I did on the first read. It's a short and simple fantasy, with just a soupcon of real danger without getting too dark. The gentle illustrations don't add too much to the story, but it is good for youngsters to have a visual in a book like this.

Clocking in at just over 30 pages, this book is perfect for beginning readers who are just about to transition to chapter books but aren't quite ready for lengthy reads on their own.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ramfam5
I read the book Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin to my class. They loved it! I did not. That is why I gave it only one star. I thought the book was boring and out of touch. My class is begging me to read the next Catwings book, Catwings Returns because they want to know what happens to the cats and
Show More
the boy and girl. Of course I am going to read it. I'll do anything for my students, even read a sequel to Catwings.
Show Less
LibraryThing member hartn
A good book for the transition from picture books and beginning readers to chapter books and novels, this text by LeGuin with illustrations by Schmeicher offers four concise chapters about a unique litter of cats that venture away from the city to search for a home. With many different adventures,
Show More
this story has an overall theme of the need to find a safe place to call home. The illustrations don't offer much in the way of narrative, but reinforce the text for readers not quite ready to leave out illustrations all together. The text is polished and quality shows from this underappreciated master when the catwings venture away from the alley:
"The sun set. The city lights came on, long strings and chains of lights below them, stretching out towards darkness. Towards darkness they flew, and at last, when around them and under everything was dark except for one light twinkling over the hill, they descended slowly from the air and landed on the ground."
This is a wonderful little book that may find a place in someone's heart for years. The adventures continue in three more stories: Alexander and the Catwings, Catwings return, and Jane on her own: A Catwings tale.
Show Less
LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
This is the adorable story (with gorgeous illustrations) about a group of kittens with wings. They leave their mother and the big city and try to find a new life, but discover that things aren't much easier in the woods. Finally they discover a pair of nice children in a farmhouse and are cared for
Show More
and loved.
Show Less
LibraryThing member devilwrites
The last time I read it, I was a child. But this story's charm carries to my adult years, and the illustrations are beautiful and perfect. It's a touching story, and one that I feel no shame in reading over and over again, no matter what my age.
LibraryThing member Zacswic
I like it. My favorite part is when the cats found an owner for themselves.
LibraryThing member cuteraccoon
This book is one of the cutest books i have ever read.The pictures are beautiful and cute.If you like animals this story will definately touch your heart
LibraryThing member scote23
Cats with wings are trying to find a place to live. A nice quick read that I would guess works well as a read-aloud.
LibraryThing member AmberTheHuman
A weird book ... but how could any child resist a book about kittens with wings?
LibraryThing member empress8411
Cute and clever, I enjoyed this pleasing little tale. The cats are fun and brave, even when things are scary. They face real trouble, but find peace in the end. I recommend for the early reader, in particular, any child who enjoys reading about animals.
LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Sweet little story, but...even for a kids' book, it's a little pointless. They have wings, for no reason anyone knows; they fly off and find a new place, where their alley-cat skills work just fine in a forest. The Owl is a sudden danger...but moving a short distance away removes the danger, for no
Show More
particular reason. And they're happy ever after with the right kind of human.
Show Less
LibraryThing member flamingrosedrakon
This is a beautiful and simple book for any child with such endearing pictures. This is definitely one book that you will enjoy to read before tucking your child to sleep.

The author does a good job of bringing to light the truth that a street cat has just as much a dangerous life than anyone can
Show More
imagine while just like any worried mother Mrs. Tabby chooses that her kittens' opportunities of finding safer grounds needs to encourage them to find a home where they aren't struggling with the present dangers of the human world and so starts the adventures of these four brave little kittens to seek a home where tires, hungry dogs, lack of food and untrustworthy humans don't abound.

Instead in a twist the kittens find a home that lacks these troubles but one that has troubles of its own. And in the twist of the book they must learn to trust that not everyone or everything is out to get. Sweet and quick to read!
Show Less
LibraryThing member emaloney5
I read this first book in the series to all grades and had students create their own creature to write about that was a combination of two animals. The students couldn't wait to write after this sweet read aloud.
LibraryThing member labbit440
A cutesy story about cats with wings. The series is a fine and fun addition to serious fans of Le Guin's other work.
LibraryThing member Greymowser
Lovely little story. Nice series. I mean cats with wings? :-)
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Aww... but it's a good thing for the nesting birds that the cats found kind Hands. Very short, but has some bits of graceful language that might prompt deeper thinking in the right reader.
LibraryThing member bgknighton
Lovely! Just what I would expect from her in a child's book!
LibraryThing member norabelle414
Four little kittens are born with wings. Don't worry about why. When they are ready to leave the nest (both literal and figurative) they fly away from their big city alley home and move to the country, where life is very different but not much easier.

An extremely short children's book. I liked the
Show More
concept of kittens with wings. I enjoyed the depiction of the countryside and that life there wasn't ideal. I thought the city alley was unnecessarily bleak, although the kittens' mom (a normal cat) was just fine with it. There is not much plot to speak of. However, the book is worth reading just for the gorgeous illustrations alone.
Show Less
LibraryThing member juniperSun
Nice early reader teaching consequences and trust. ' "Now we know how little birds feel," said Thelma, grimly.'
The opening chapter portrays the danger, worry, & hunger associated with life on the streets. the voice of the mother is perfect. When the kittens make it to the country, they find it
Show More
paradisical but also knew that every place was dangerous.
We hear the perspectives of the birds, who resent the kittens ability to fly. We don't hear from the fish: "The fish in the creek said nothing. Fish never do. Few people know what fish think about injustice, or anything else." And then there is Owl who figures out how to put limits on the kittens hunting. "Owl is not a quick thinker. She is a long thinker."
It ends with 2 children from a nearby farm who know how to befriend kittens.
Show Less
LibraryThing member jennybeast
Sweet story about the adventures of kittens with wings.

I know there are other stories in the series and I wanted this to be a collection of tales -- alas, no, not at this time. Has the classic feeling of Old Mother West Wind (pacing) and Cricket in Times' Square (illustrations typeface).
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Mrs. Jane Tabby can't explain why her four kittens have wings. She decides they should put their wings to good use by flying to the country to find a home away from the dangers of the city. Readers follow Thelma, Harriet, Roger, and James on their journey to find a new home. This beautifully
Show More
illustrated chapter book could be used to transition children to independent reading. The story of kittens venturing out into the world without their mother may resonate with children starting school for the first time or going to overnight camp for the first time.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Bookish59
Sweet tale of 4 young winged cats who leave dangerous city streets to live in the country. And luckily find Susan and Hank, 2 young good cat lovers.

Very good.




½ (342 ratings; 4)
Page: 0.4496 seconds