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Varjak Paw

(Varjak Paw #1)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,157 ratings  ·  350 reviews
Mesopotamian Blue cat, Varjak Paw, has never been Outside before; he and his family have always lived in the isolated house at the top of the hill. But Varjak is forced out into the city when the sinister Gentleman and his two menacing cats take over his home. With help from his mystical ancestor, Jalal, Varjak manages to overcome challenges such as self-survival and a thr ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Yearling (first published 2003)
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Popular Answered Questions
Juci This is probably a moot question by now, but yes, I believe that the illustrations greatly enhance this story. :)
Lynxtuft No, this site is simply for reviewing books and keeping track of which books you've read, which books you haven't read and books you want to read

Community Reviews

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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,157 ratings  ·  350 reviews

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first, let's focus on the artwork, because i saw this cover somewhere and i knew that i needed to read this book, no matter what its contents. i really do love dave mckean. he has been responsible for some of my favorite jonathan carroll covers, and the man just really knows how to draw cats.

he manages to get cat mannerisms down perfectly with such an economy of line - i love it. the only person whose cats even come close, and with a totally different tone is jeffrey brown:

he gets all the cute s
Kagama-the Literaturevixen
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Book no 1 of the 16 cat books


Varjak Paw is the only one in his family of noble Mesopotamian Blue cats whose eyes arent green and he is constantly teased and ridiculed for this reason.His older brother even claims this is the reason their owner-the Contessa has stoppedvisiting them and only stays in her room.

One who doesnt make fun of him is his grandfather the Elder Paw and Varjak loves to listen to him tell stories about their ancestor Jalals adventures.
Ben Trevail
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 52books2017
Can't believe this brilliant book has escaped me for so long. Beautifully written and illustrated. Possibly too challenging for my Y3 class but keen to share widely with all children across KS2.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this book in the store, and the cat on the front cover was so adorable that I had to buy it for my sister. Of course, then I had to read it before giving it to her!
This is definitely a kids' book - not even YA, but for younger children.
However - it's also an excellent book. McKean's illustrations are perfect for the characters and the story.
Varjak is a young Mesopotamian Blue cat who's been brought up to think he's something special. However, when his owner disappears and a strange and sin
Bethany Sawford
Aug 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I originally gave this book 2 stars, I felt it was unrealistic and dull, no doubt because the whole idea of a kung-fu cat turned me off before I had even started reading, so I didn't give it a chance. Upon discussion, I realised I was being unfair and was persuaded to re-read it. The second time I found myself liking the characters, even though I knew the ending I still worried when they were in danger and felt their true friendships on the cold hard streets of the city, I willed them on their w ...more
John Velo
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
I bought this at a book sale one day and I only bought it because it had a cat on its cover...and I am not disappointed. What can I say? I'm a cat person!

Although this is more of a children's book and I could totally predict what could happen, I still found myself enjoying it. Teaches some lessons and the artwork is pretty neat.
A Severs
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Almost a life manual for us all. The idea that no one is too special to help others and that comfort zones hold us back seem to have special relevance to the UK's current treatment of refugees.

Clever writing and brilliant characters - it's easy sometimes to forget it's about cats!
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-books
Brilliant book! Vividly imagined by SF Said with stunning illustrations by Dave McKean. This is a must-read for MG fans.
Dana Salman
My sister is doing a reading competition for her school and was given a bunch of books to read, and this was one of them. I try not to pass up a chance at reading free books, even if they're ones I wouldn't pick out of a bookshop, and thankfully Varjak Paw, though a children's book, turned out to be a great read - extremely easy and fast to get through without being boring at any point, it had lovable main characters and beautiful atmospheric illustrations (as expected of Dave McKean, whose work ...more
Aaron Campling
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it

This thrilling story follows Varjak Paw, a Mesopotamian Blue cat living in the house of Contessa on top of a hill. His family bully and ignore him, and his eyes are the 'colour of danger'. Varjak Paw is successfully portrayed as different to everybody else (something that some children may be able to relate to), and soon becomes increasingly desperate to see the world outside of the Contessa's house, something he has never done.

The Contessa soon becomes sick, and when a sinister man with two bl
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Varjak Paw belongs to a family of Mesopotamian Blue pedigree cats who are owned by the Contessa. However, she has rarely been seen recently and when a mysterious gentleman turns up with two uncanny black cats of his own, the Contessa disappears. Being only concerned with comfort, safety and good food, Varjak's family are blissfully ignorant of the dangers Varjak can sense. Plus, Varjak, with his yellow eyes - something no true blue would ever be pr ...more
Rhian Loxley
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamium Blue kitten, living in a house on top of a hill, he has never left the high walls that surround the Contessa's garden.

His family are happy to recline in the knowledge that a strange man will feed them caviar, as they admire their own handsome pedigree. Varjak however is bored, an outcast, unlike his siblings his name doesn't begin with J and he has eyes the colour of danger - he is desperate to see the world outside of the contessa's house. Armed with the wise words
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Το βιβλίο προορίζεται για μια πολύ στενή ηλικιακή ομάδα, αυτή των 8-14 ετών. Για την ομάδα αυτή είναι ενδιαφέρον, ευκολοδιάβαστο και με μηνύματα που παλεύουν να μην ισοπεδωθούν από τη σκληρή πραγματικότητα.
Στους υπόλοιπους δεν μπορεί να δώσει κάτι, πέραν του να περάσουν την ώρα τους όταν δεν υπάρχει κάτι καλύτερο να κάνουν.

Ένας συμπαθής, άβγαλτος γάτος ράτσας (μάθαμε και τη ράτσα Μπλε της Μεσοποταμίας) φεύγει από το σπίτι του για να γνωρίσει το Έξω. Σιγά σιγά και με τη βοήθεια πιο περπατημένων
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel is so much more than a story about a cat leaving its sheltered home life for the city in search of a dog to save his family. It works on many different levels to question life as an outcast; from your own family, from your own society and your own environment. The main character, Varjak Paw is given advice with almost mystical, Eastern powers to solve problems that he encounters on his journey; if he chooses to apply them, and these help him to become streetwise and learn more about t ...more
Sophie Gray
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My boyfriend suggested I read this while I was ill this week (I was reading Station Eleven, which is not a comforting book when you've got the flu!!) and it was a brilliant idea. A really lovely story with beautiful illustrations, which genuinely touched me.
Penny Raspenny
I can't begin to explain how awesome this book is.
Review to come
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book basically reeled me in at the library when I realized it was talking about ninja cats. Yeah, that's right. And I was not disappointed at all. This book was adorable. Adorable. But also subtly creepy. You don't get any backstory on the mystery, you have no idea what is going on or why - which is pretty common in kids books, but still is a little alarming in this one. The characters are cute, but simple, and of course Varjak takes to the Way quickly because, hey, it's a kids book. And he ...more
Hajra Natha
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Varjak Paw – by S F Said
The outside world was a mystery and any adventures Varjak Paw had were through the stories his grandfather told him about heroic ancestor martial arts expert, Jalal and his travels around the world.
Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamian Blue cat, with bright golden yellow coloured eyes which are described as the colour of danger. Varjak Paw lives with the rest of his family in the countess’s house on top of the hill. His family consists of his parents, grandfather, and four sibling
Apr 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Varjak Paw by S. F. Said
A tale of Varjak the cat, descendant of the great Jalal, finding his identify in the big world. Varjak an outcast grew up with his parents and his siblings being told the story of Jalal by his grandfather. Jalal was a brave and courageous cat who after 100 years has left a legacy for his descendents to follow. Varjak Paw years to have an adventurous life where he can show his siblings he is worthy of being a descendent of Jalal. His opportunity arises when the countess d
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This has been one of those books that has been recommended to me by GR but one that I wasn't ever quite certain of. Then a few weeks ago I ended up going to our used bookstore in town to get another book from the window that I had been eyeballing for quite a while and with that visit we ended up looking through some of the other YA books they had for some older treasures when I came across this book. Deciding what the heck I chose to go on ahead to get it then used it as my rebound book since o ...more
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Once again a matriarchal society has been transformed into a patriarchal one, largely inhabited by male characters, but still, it's about cats, so I had to love it. Plus I really love that cover with the golden eyes. And yes, I did google to see if the breed really existed.


Casting about for the next read-aloud after the Penderwicks, we struck on this. Glad I finished it last month. Also, very glad that the McKean illustrations aren't as disturbing as the ones he does for Gaimain's books.


This is an entertaining novel, beautifully illustrated. It tells the story of one Varjak Paw, a cat from a noble line of Mesapotamian Blues. Varjak is a bit of an outcast in his family, what with his obsession with going Outside and his dislike of simply sitting around looking dignified. When the Countess (the owner of Varjak and his family) dies, a sinister man with two even more sinister black cats comes into the picture. Varjak must escape to the Outside, learn the cat martial arts, and retur ...more
Sophie Mc
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
'Varjak Paw' by S.F.Said is a great read for children studying at KS2. The story follows the main character Varjak who had always lived an easy life up until he was forced out of his home by the Gentleman and his two horrible cats. As the story unravels we learn about Varjak's struggle to come to terms with living, and more importantly, surviving on the streets. We inevitably read about how Varjak comes up against rival gangs and of the battles he faces against them. At times the story can be qu ...more
India Lees
I thoroughly enjoyed Varjak Paw. Initially, i found it hard to get into, as i didn't understand where the story was going. However, i persevered and once i got past the first couple of chapters i was hooked. The story explores many themes: family bonds, friendship and journeys. Would be a great cross-curricular topic book to use in year 3/4, and could lead onto some interesting character exploration work. The only downside to the book, is the ending, as it feels rushed and is slightly confusing ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
A good, dark story.
Emma (howlsmovinglibrary)
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Revisited my childhood with literally my favourite children's book of all time. When I opened it, I saw that 10-year-old me had written my name in the book in 2003 :O
HP Saucerer
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adventure
A dark, gripping and pacy feline adventure that is vividly-imagined and beautifully told. Dave McKean's quirky illustrations brilliantly complement the story. A delightful read.
Niamh Meagher
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My new favourite book.
Zoe Obstkuchen
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this as part of the Read Harder 2018 challenge. As a cat lover I enjoyed this tale (tail?) of a kitten getting in touch with his exotic heritage and saving the day
Anu Korpinen
Oikein seikkailullinen kissakirja, kertomus Varjak Käpälästä jonka on löydettävä esi-isänsä Tie ja pelastettava perheensä salaperäisen Herrasmiehen kynsistä. Kirja sisälsi mystiikkaa ja makaabereja käänteitä, joten osasin nauttia tarinasta vaikka se rullasikin eteenpäin hurjalla vauhdilla. Nuorille lukijoille suunnatussa kirjassa nopsa eteneminen tietysti on täysin hyväksyttävää, mutta yhdessä asiassa tämä ylimalkaisuus minua häiritsi. Louskun ja Varjakin ystävyys syttyy salamannopeasti muutaman ...more
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Said grew up in the Iraqi diasporic community in London, moving there with his mother at the age of two. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, he worked as a press attaché and speech writer for the Crown Prince of Jordan’s office in London. He began a Ph.D. in 1997 looking at the lives of young Muslims in Britain, but left academia to focus on film journalism for the Daily Telegraph – ...more

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Varjak Paw (2 books)
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“Believe something is impossible,’ said his ancestor calmly, ‘and you will surely fail. But believe in yourself and you can do anything.” 9 likes
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