Augusta: A Review of ‘The Queen and the Cats: A Story of Saint Helen’

“What we can learn from Helena is something about the workings of God, that He wants a different thing from each of us, laborious or easy, conspicuous or quite private, but something which only we can do and for which we were each created.” – Evelyn Waugh

Reading/Interest Level

Ages 3-7

Grades P-K – 5

Review and Comments

Queen Helena arrives on the island of Cyprus, and everyone is excited to get a glimpse of “the queen, the royal empress of the whole world.”  A small, young girl is able to get very close to the Queen and the very first thing she witnesses is the Queen’s anger.  Helena exclaims that she is bringing precious relics to be displayed in the churches for the faithful, but now she finds out that the churches are unsafe for the people because of poisonous snakes!  This is not acceptable. 

Then, Helena reverently presents a small piece of the cross “where our Lord died and defeated death” for everyone to see and again inquires if there is even one church in all of Cyprus where the people can safely venerate the Lord’s cross.  Finally, a solution to the problem is accomplished for one special service.  The snakes are “held at bay by sticks dipped in oil and lit on fire.” The queen continues to agonize over the very serious snake crisis.

Before she leaves the island, the Queen promises the young girl that she will send some “special helpers” to keep the churches safe.  It seems like a long wait, but a ship finally arrives with the queen’s gift – a ship full of many cats!  Who would have guessed that cats were the queen’s solution to the snake problem!  The cats skillfully chase the snakes away and are quite comfortable in the churches, which assures the safety of everyone.

Queen Helena is truly a strong female character who solves a difficult problem for the people of Cyprus and accomplishes her goal of bringing relics of Jesus to His people.

There are historical notes at the end of the book that explain how the Queen found the true cross, how she did actually leave some treasure in Cyprus, and how today there are still cats in the monasteries of Cyprus. 

Possible Concerns

There are no concerns with this book.

Further Discussion


Draw a picture of a church in Cyprus.  The church should have doors that can open.  On the outside of the church draw snakes.  Open the doors and show the inside of the church with a few cats sitting around the entrance. Add Jesus’ cross to the sanctuary.

 Problem Solution:

Divide a paper in half.  At the top of the left side write Problem as a headingAt the top of the right side write Solution as a heading.  Draw a picture of the problem on the left and then write a sentence describing the problem below the picture.  Draw a picture of the solution on the right and then write a sentence describing how the problem was solved.

Character Analysis of Queen Helena:

Divide a paper into thirds. Write one trait of Queen Helena in each column. Below each trait write a sentence from the story that proves the queen does posses that trait.  [Examples: brave, forceful, problem solver]

Catholic Resources

Saint Helena of Constantinople [feast day May 21] This site includes a prayer to Saint Helena.

The Veneration of the Cross

Read this article from Catholic News Agency about Veneration of the Cross.

Prayer before a Crucifix, to be said after communion:
Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before Thy face I humbly kneel, and with burning soul pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true contrition for my sins, and a firm purpose of amendment.

Meanwhile, I contemplate with great love and tender mercy Thy five most precious wounds, pondering over them within me, and calling to mind with words which David in prophecy made Thee say concerning Thyself, my Jesus:

“They have pierced My hands and feet; they have numbered all my bones.”

You can find more simple children’s prayers at Catholic Kids.