by Ursula Le Guin. Illustrated by S. D. Schindler. Chapter Book. 48 pages. Grades 1-5.
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Teacher's Guide

cover art

When Mrs. Jane Tabby's four kittens are born, she is surprised to see that they have wings. Life among the trash cans of the inner city is not good: the shoes and boots kick and the hands hurt. Soon, the mother realizes that the power to fly will allow her kittens to escape the slums in which they live to find a better life.

Roger, James, Harriet and Thelma soon discover that their city skills don't help much in the woods of the country and they must fight some fierce birds in order to secure their territory. Surviving near starvation they finally find some children who will love and care for them.

This is an easy to read novel. Great for kids just venturing into the world of reading novels. It's also a wonderful read aloud. The illustrations are pen and ink with soft washes of pastels and add some lightness to the story.

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Things to Talk About and Notice

  • How does the author make you believe kittens could have wings?

  • How does the author maintain the cats' point of view throughout the book?

  • Do the illustrations help or hurt the believability?

  • Where do you think your pets would go if they could fly?

  • The kittens are concerned with the hands and feet of the humans. What would other animals be aware of?


  • To help discern the realistic from fantastic aspects of the story create a two column chart with the headings of "realistic" and "fantasy" and work together to brainstorm things that fit each category. You could work line by line from a section of the book.

  • Imagine other animals including humans with wings. Write and draw stories about them.

  • Write a diary from a cat's point of view.

  • Brainstorm ways for the kittens to rescue their mother.

  • Create stick Catwing puppets such as this one. Act out a favorite scene from the story with the puppets.

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Related Books

  • cover artCatwings Return by Ursula Le Guin. Illustrated by S. D. Schindler. (2003, Scholastic. ISBN 9780439551908. Order Info.) Fantasy. 56 pages. Gr 1-5.
    James and Harriet, two of the winged kittens, return to the slums to find their mother. There they find another winged kitten, bruised and frightened. When they do find their mother, she insists that the new kitten should go with them too. There's a gentle humor in these stories as well as some adventure.

  • cover art Wonderful Alexander and Catwings by Ursula Le Guin. Illustrated by S. D. Schindler. (1994, Scholastic. ISBN 9780531068519. Order Info.) Chapter Book. 48 pages. Gr 1-5.
    This is the third book in the Catwings series. Wonderful Alexander is a kitten who gets himself stuck in a tree. When one of the flying cats, Jane, rescues him he wonders how he can repay her.

  • cover artJane On Her Own by Ursula Le Guin. Illustrated by S. D. Schindler. (2003, Scholastic. ISBN 9780439551922. Order Info.) Chapter Book. 48 pages. Gr 1-5.
    Jane, the youngest of the winged kittens is bored with farm life and embarks on a dangerous adventure back to the city where she was born and where her flightless mother still lives.

  • cover artTuesday by David Wiesner. (1991, Clarion. ISBN 9781435208629. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr PreK-3.
    Even before the title page we are aware that frogs--one frog at least--is levitating in the marsh. By the first words in the book, "Tuesday Evening, around eight," frogs on their lily pads are zooming around, looping and diving. They're off to town where they startle a late night snacker, decimate a clothesline, invade the house where an old woman snoozes before her TV. Read more about this book including some activities.

  • cover art The Silver Pony: A Story in Pictures by Lynd Ward. (1992, Turtleback. ISBN 9780833595188. Order Info.) Wordless. 174 pages. Gr 2-5.
    Here is a wordless novel of a boy and a flying horse. Even the chapters are indicated wordlessly. This is a beautiful, mythic novel.

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