Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Newbery: It’s Like This, Cat

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I love books in which geography plays a definite setting and importance. Mary Poppins and the Paddington stories are thoroughly British, Each Little Bird That Sings is (deep, I’m guessing) South, and It’s Like This Cat is 100% New York City, albeit a New York City forty or so years removed. Books in which geography plays an importance transport you to places you haven’t visited, or are reminders of familiar areas.

Fourteen year old Dave has adopted one of the neighborhood’s Crazy Cat Lady’s cats. His father, prone to outbursts, is furious, particularly as Dave’s mother has stress-induced asthma. Dave is allowed to keep it, and forms a touching bond with the cat (which he simply calls Cat).

Through Cat, Dave meets a wide assortment of interesting characters, such as a troubled older teen and his first girlfriend. There’s no major overriding drama; just episodes involving Dave, his new friends, and Cat.

As in the more contemporary Because of Winn Dixie (which was written for a younger audience and involves a dog), an unexpectedly acquired pet introduces a somewhat lonely child to new acquaintances and friends. Not only is It’s Like This Cat a fine story about the effect of a pet on a child’s/teen’s life, but it is also a look back (for modern readers-the book was contemporary when it won the Newbery in 1964) when kids were pretty much left to their own devices for amusement and allowed to roam and explore freely. While It’s Like This, Cat, doesn’t have much in the way of exciting plot twists and action, it is an excellent New York City-centric novel about friendship and self-discovery.

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