Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Fiction Europe

The White Cat and the Monk

A Retelling of the Poem “Pangur Bán”

by (author) Jo Ellen Bogart

illustrated by Sydney Smith

Groundwood Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Mar 2016
Europe, Cats, Stories in Verse
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jul 2020
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
  • Reading age: 4 to 8


A monk leads a simple life. He studies his books late into the evening and searches for truth in their pages. His cat, Pangur, leads a simple life, too, chasing prey in the darkness. As night turns to dawn, Pangur leads his companion to the truth he has been seeking.

The White Cat and the Monk is a retelling of the classic Old Irish poem “Pangur Bán.” With Jo Ellen Bogart’s simple and elegant narration and Sydney Smith’s classically inspired images, this contemplative story pays tribute to the wisdom of animals and the wonders of the natural world.

About the authors

Jo Ellen Bogart was born in Houston, Texas and grew up in several Texas cities, but for the last 32 years, she has lived in Guelph, Ontario AKA Children's Author Central. She really enjoys running into writers and artists at the grocery store.
Jo Ellen has always been an animal lover and pet keeper, but her current pet list is down to two dogs, two frogs, and a ton of fish, most of which vacation in the backyard pond and winter in the Bogart basement, supervising the laundry.
Part of the fun Jo Ellen has in writing books for children is venturing into many different kinds of writing, from poetry and picture books to biography, non-fiction, and early readers. She has also written lots of song lyrics for kids, and is trying her hand at painting. Jo Ellen really likes to take digital pictures and play around with them on the computer.
Jo Ellen has a teaching degree from the University of Texas and has worked as a supply teacher. Though she no longer teaches, she really enjoys meeting her young readers and seeing what they have to say. Her own two kids are grown but she has a new baby grandson and is amassing stacks of books for the future reader.


Jo Ellen Bogart's profile page

Sydney Smith was born in rural Nova Scotia and has been drawing from an early age. Since graduating from NSCAD University, he has illustrated multiple children’s books, including the highly acclaimed wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by Jon Arno Lawson, which won a Governor General’s Award, was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book and has been long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. He is also the illustrator of Grant and Tillie Go Walking by Monica Kulling and The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, both highly acclaimed. Sydney has received a number of other awards for his illustrations, including the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. He now lives in Toronto and works in a shared studio space in Chinatown.

Sydney Smith's profile page


  • Commended, USBBY's Outstanding International Books List
  • Commended, NCTE Notable Poetry List
  • Commended, Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices List
  • Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Commended, The NP99: The Best Books of the Year
  • Commended, SLJ's Best of 2016
  • Commended, Brain Pickings' Best Children's Books of 2016
  • Commended, Quill & Quire Reviewer Pick
  • Commended, The New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books
  • Commended, CCBC Best Books for Children and Teens, starred selection
  • Commended, CBC Best Books of 2016
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award, Young People's Literature – Illustrated Books

Editorial Reviews

If ever there was a book that could calm a child and draw her into meditative contemplation (perhaps right before bed?), The White Cat and the Monk is it.

Quill and Quire, STARRED REVIEW

The text’s subtle moral is timeless but also sings with elegiac timeliness — what a wonderful counterpoint to modern life’s hamster wheel of achievement and approval, this idea that there is poetry in every pursuit executed with purposefulness and savored with uncompetitive joy.

The New York Times

Truly a wonderful book, THE WHITE CAT AND THE MONK expresses the richness of the relationship between the two characters.

Canadian Review of Materials

...lyrical yet easily understood...Contentment and joy are reflected in text and image


Smith . . . imbues the text with contemporary visual language through his singular, elegantly minimalist graphic novel aesthetic.

Brain Pickings

If you want to treat yourself to a superb picture book, treat yourself to this one.

Kirkus Review

The watercolor-and-ink artwork has both heft and humor, especially in the joyful depictions of the manuscripts...Readers who consider the story’s underlying messages about necessities, companionship, and fulfillment will come away enriched.


... a sophisticated and subtle story about the pursuit of joy—one that will easily resonate with readers young and old.

Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

This is a great book for any group of readers . . . a great book to introduce to kids who may not think they like poetry.

The Children's Writer's Guild

The stylized artwork captures the timeless beauty of the poem in this simple yet meaningful picturebook, highly recommended.

Midwest Book Review

The adaptation . . . is as unostentatious as the watercolor-and-ink illustrations, which meld a medieval spirit with a modern sense of cartooning, a juxtaposition that is fresh and seems entirely right.

Horn Book

A stunningly illustrated meditative ode to the simple joys of human-animal companionship and the pursuit of knowledge.

School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Author Jo Ellen Bogart has provided an unembellished, thoughtful text that pays tribute to the value of perseverance and dedication for one's vocation, be it humble or exalted.

Canadian Children's Book News

Other titles by Jo Ellen Bogart

Other titles by Sydney Smith

Related lists