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Rationale - Re-telling - Translation - Activities - Reflection

Language: French
Title: Une nuit, un chat... (One Night, One Cat...)
Author: Pommaux Y.
Publisher: L'école des loisirs (1994)
ISBN: 9 782211 033206
Chosen by: Francis Marcoin
Professor of French Literature, Universitè D'Artois, UFR de lettres Modernes, 9 rue du Temple, BP 665, 62030 Arras, France.

Rationale for choosing the book:
This book was chosen because it was written by a very well known and popular French children's writer and it encompasses a universal theme... that of growing up and going out alone.

Groucho, a young cat, decides to go out one night but his mother is worried that he may get into trouble. So she asks his father to follow him - to make sure that he is OK. Groucho has great fun discovering things with his new found girlfriend, Kitty, but he is very careless. Fortunately, hiding in the shadows, his father is there to save him. The two kittens share many frightening moments together, especially when pursued by the Sewer Rat, but Groucho's father always comes to the rescue. Finally, Groucho himself manages to dispose of the menacing rat in his own way. and returns home happily, much to the delight of his anxious parents. The only problem is that he wants to go out the next night, too!

Groucho spends every night wisely in his bed, but tonight...
...Groucho jumps out of the window and goes out alone.
His parents expected it.
Mother: ' Here we are, I can hear him. He's going out.'
Father:   'Yes, darling, I can see him. Tonight's the night.'
All the cat-parents wait anxiously for this night: the night when their child goes out alone for the first time.
Doesn't he run the risk of getting lost, poor little one? Of falling from a roof or into a hole? And even worse: a huge sewer rat, who has already devoured several kittens, wanders around in the neighbourhood...
However, in the cat world there is a law, a golden rule: when a kitten goes out by himself for the first time, on his own, at night, his parents leave him alone. To stop their kitten going out at night would be dishonourable to cats.
Mother:  'But maybe you should follow him, without being seen!'
Father:   'You're right. Nobody will know. Anyway, if I stay here all night I'll go insane.'
The night is calm. It is really beautiful. At night anything can happen.
Groucho thinks that he is going to have a really exciting time with new adventures of charm and dizziness.
At night, cats sleep, read, hug, wander or have parties.
At night, Groucho notices that all cats are not grey.
Then he is surrounded by huge strange shadows.
Groucho is not afraid of shadows ... except if they are too big or too strange.
Sometimes, the night plays a game and gives frightening shadows to something harmless.
Sometimes, the night stops having fun...
Groucho:  'My name's Groucho'
Kitty :       'I'm Kitty.'
Groucho:  'It's the first time I've been out alone'
Kitty:        'Me, too.'
Groucho & Kitty:  'THE SEWER RAT!'
Running away is the only means of escape.
But the fight is not equal.
Fortunately the rat stumbles.
He falls down on the ground, but he gets up immediately, foaming with rage, and continues the pursuit.

'At the last moment', Groucho says to Kitty, 'You go on the right side and I'll go on the left.'
It was as soon said as done!
About the rat ... The rat? Which rat? There's no rat anymore.
Father:  'Clever boy, my son!!'
Kitty:  'What a wonderful night!' says Kitty, but adds: 'We must go home now!'  Everybody knows that cats always return before dawn.' Groucho realises how happy he feels, on this occasion, to accompany a friend home.
Groucho and Kitty arrange to meet again, say goodbye, and Groucho returns to his roof with his heart pounding!
'My child!' says his mother.
'Son!' says his father.
'Are you alright, my dear?'
'Yes, of course!'
'Anything broken?'
'Of course not!'
'Did anything awful happen?'
'No, mum...
but tomorrow night I shall go out again.'

NB This is a working translation for educational purpose only.

Activities for use in school:
1. The excitement of doing things for the first time is something all children experience. In small groups, get the children to devise  a short piece of drama that depicts one of these such incidents. These can then be shared with the class.
2. The building in which the cats 'reside' is probably very different from the homes in which English children live. Some individuals might like to sketch what they think the whole building might be like and, perhaps, begin a small investigation into French architecture, focusing on the period in which this building was erected.
3. On pages 14/15  the text reads ' At night, Groucho noticed that all cats are not grey'.
This is a contradiction of the French saying 'All cats are grey at night'. You might like to discuss with the children what Groucho discovered. You could also, with the class, make a list of English phrases or sayings that the children know and maybe get them to create a poem or short story based on a slight change in the wording. For example 'Here today, gone tomorrow' could be re-written as 'Hare today, stew tomorrow' etc.

Reflection:   'It was as soon said as done' (p.25) translates almost exactly from the French. If your children are learning another language, you might like to compare other sayings that are nearly similar. In Spanish, for example, the equivalent of  'pulling somebody's leg' is to 'pull their hair'!


NB Further literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières
available from or


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ncrcl November 2004