Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Emily Neville

It’s Like This, Cat
by Emily Neville
Recommended Age: 12+

The 1964 winner of the Newbery Medal is a loose, light-hearted story that shows us a slice out of an ordinary kid’s life in Manhattan in the 1960’s. Written in the present tense and first person singular, it seems to capture effortlessly the way of speaking of a city youth at a point in his life when many changes are taking place.

One big change in Dave Mitchell’s life - the one that sets everything in motion, really - is when he adopts a stray tomcat and names it, well, Cat. His friendship with Cat sees him through a sea of changes in his relationship with his parents, his first friendship with a girl, and a change of schools and of best friends. And while there is no natural idyll, exotic culture or quaint historic setting in this story, it is neat to see city life through a kid’s eyes and enjoy the many things it has to offer.

Don’t get me wrong, some serious stuff does happen in Dave’s world. The Mrs. Figg-like neighbor lady (you know, batty and cat-loving) goes through a personal crisis. A slightly older boy with a troubled background prompts Dave to rethink his resentful attitude toward his blustery, lawyer father. And a hair-raising adventure follows when first Cat, then Dave, dive out of the family car in the middle of a Parkway.

Readers who loved Eleanor EstesPinky Pye will enjoy graduating up to this somewhat more mature story. It isn’t high drama or the great American novel, but it is charming and lifelike, and it leaves you feeling good.

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