The Fat Cat: A Tragic Lesson in Greed and Overindulgence

“I ate the gruel and I ate the pot, too. And now I am going to also eat YOU.”

The cover of the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent“Greedy folk have long arms,” posits the old English proverb. That’s the figurative and disturbing truth presented in The Fat Cat (public library), a children’s book by author and illustrator Jack Kent about a greedy cat with an insatiable appetite. Based on a Danish folktale, Kent’s book follows the cat’s wholly unforgettable journey as he consumes everything and everyone in his path. It’s an engrossing experience for children and adults alike.

The story starts in an old woman’s house. The cat, curled up on the chair, watches a pot of gruel for the old woman while she runs an errand. From there, things get progressively stranger.

There was once an old woman who was cooking some gruel. She had some business with a neighbor woman and asked the cat if he would look after the gruel while she was gone. ‘I’ll be glad to,’ said the cat.

But when the old woman had gone, the gruel looked so good that the cat ate it all. And the pot, too.

When the old woman came back, she said to the cat, ‘Now what has happened to the gruel?’

‘Oh,’ said the cat, ‘I ate the gruel and I ate the pot, too. And now I am going to also eat YOU.’ And he ate the old woman.

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

After eating the old woman, the cat leaves the house and starts walking around. He meets a number of neighbors and animals and devours them all. Suffice it to say that The Fat Cat is hilarious and slightly morbid at the same time. The events certainly capture and hold children’s attention!

Later he met seven girls dancing. And they, too, said to him, ‘Gracious! What have you been eating, my little cat? You are so fat.’

And the cat said, ‘I ate the gruel and the pot and the old woman, too, and Skohottentot and Skolinkenlot and five birds in a flock. And now I am going to also eat YOU.’

And he ate the seven girls dancing.

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

Eventually the cat meets a woodcutter with an ax. The man cuts open the cat and saves the lives of everyone who had been eaten by the cat. The old woman takes her gruel and hurries home. On the last page of the story, the cat is shown looking dazed and confused while the woodcutter tapes his wound.

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

Artwork from the book The Fat Cat by Jack Kent

The story’s apparent lesson — that greed and overindulgence can adversely affect you and those around you — is similar to the advice that Joseph Wood Krutch delivered to young adults in a commencement speech at the University of Arizona:

You may think that personal integrity and self-respect are not what you want more than anything else. You may say to yourself that putting them first would make it too difficult to get along in the world and that you want to get along in the world; that you would rather have money, power and fame than personal self-satisfaction. You may even say that you want money, power and fame so that you can ‘do good in the world.’ But if you do say any of these things, you will be making an unwise choice. You will be surrendering something which cannot be taken away from you to gain something which can be taken away from you and which, as a matter of fact, very often is.

The Fat Cat is a timeless story, one that teaches children about the dangers of greed and overindulgence. Sadly, the book is currently out of print, but those lucky enough to find this book used will undoubtedly enjoy it for years to come. Complement with Rude Cakesa hilarious children’s book that uses humor to talk about bad behavior, and Gossie, a story about a gosling who likes to wear bright red boots.

Mr. Meebles: The Classic Children’s Book About an Imaginary Friend Who Fears Being Forgotten

“You’re just an idea, and an idea doesn’t exist unless somebody has it.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Albert Einstein once observed, “for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” The tension between imagination and knowledge is palpable in Mr. Meebles (public library), a delightful and conceptually ingenious children’s book written and illustrated by Jack Kent.

The book chiefly concerns imaginary friends, an age-old phenomenon in which children create friendships with companions that exist only in their imaginations. According to Dr. Larry Kutner, a psychologist who served nearly 20 years on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, 65 percent of children have imaginary friends. Dr. Kutner says that parents shouldn’t be alarmed by the fact that their children have imaginary friends.

Imaginary companions are an integral part of many children’s lives. They provide comfort in times of stress, companionship when they’re lonely, someone to boss around when they feel powerless, and someone to blame for the broken lamp in the living room. Most important, an imaginary companion is a tool young children use to help them make sense of the adult world.

Mr. Meebles acknowledges imaginary friends and provides validation to young readers who have experienced the phenomenon themselves, all while delicately suggesting that imaginary friends might someday be forgotten.

The hero of the story is Donald, a boy who has an imaginary friend named Mr. Meebles. Donald and Mr. Meebles have lots of adventures when Donald has time to daydream, but from the start Mr. Meebles expresses concern over the fact that he’s only make-believe.

Mr. Meebles was a very short man with a very tall hat and a very big problem. Mr. Meebles’ problem was that he was only make-believe. A little boy named Donald had imagined him one day when he didn’t have anything else to do.

Artwork from the book Mr. Meebles

Together, Donald and Mr. Meeble tackle the stuff daydreams are made of: things like dragons, pirates, and outlaws. But one day a profound thought occurs to Donald’s imaginary friend: What happens when Donald doesn’t think about him?

One day, while they were having an adventure full of pirates and parrots and pieces of eight, Mr. Meebles asked Donald, ‘Where am I when you don’t think about me?’

‘Why, nowhere, I guess,’ said Donald. ‘You’re just an idea, and an idea doesn’t exist unless somebody has it.’

Artwork from the book Mr. Meebles

As Donald grows increasingly preoccupied with school and chores, he has less and less time for daydreaming. Mr. Meebles expresses concern at this and asks about what would happen to him if Donald never thought about him.

‘That’s what bothers me,’ said Mr. Meebles. ‘What if you never thought about me at all?’

‘But I DO think about you,’ said Donald.

‘Not as much as you used to,’ said Mr. Meebles.

This was true. Donald was going to school now. He didn’t have much time for make-believe anymore.

Artwork from the book Mr. Meebles

Donald assures Mr. Meebles that he won’t forget about him. He comes up with an ingenious plan for remembering his imaginary friend day and after day.

‘I promise to think about you often, Mr. Meebles,’ said Donald. ‘I’ll write a note so I won’t forget. Whenever I have an idea I want to remember, I write it down,’ he said. This reminded Donald that he had some spelling homework to do.

Things don’t go quite according to plan, however, and Mr. Meebles has to take things into his own hands. The surprise ending will delight readers.

Artwork from the book Mr. Meebles

The book’s gentle approach is perfect for parents of children with imaginary friends. According to Dr. Kutner, children already know that their imaginary friends aren’t real, and parents shouldn’t push their children too hard in either direction.

Don’t insist that your child admit that his imaginary companion doesn’t really exist. Rest assured that he knows that. In fact, if you push your child too hard in the other direction, treating his invisible friend as if you truly believed he did exist, your child will probably become upset, and perhaps a bit frightened.

Mr. Meebles is out of print, but parents lucky enough to find this book used will be in for a treat. Children won’t soon forget this touching story of an imaginary friend whose biggest worry is about being forgotten. Complement it with Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport, a wonderful children’s book about dealing with changes and stereotypes.