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'The Rabbi's Cat' Wishes to Be Jewish Too

When Joann Sfar was growing up in France, his grandfather would buy him American comic books -- The Fantastic Four and Spiderman would fill travel with him to school. Sfar's new graphic novel, The Rabbi's Cat is a comic book of a different sort.

No superheroes here, no modern-day eccentrics and no symbolic mice. Instead Sfar's work features an Algerian rabbi, his cat and a variety of adventures in theology.

The Rabbi's Cat, set in Algiers during the early part of the 20th century, is based on family stories. But Sfar had no photos to work from because his family was forced to flee the country. "I imagined the visual," he says.

"This cat lives in a very traditional family and he [wishes] he could talk to the daughter of the rabbi and tell him about many forbidden things, such as love," Sfar says. So the cat (which was inspired by Sfar's own Siamese) eats the family's talkative parrot and starts to speak.

When the rabbi begins to worry that he can no longer trust the cat with his daughter, Sfar says, the animal "does his best to prove he's still a good cat" by becoming a Jew.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.