“Pop does a lot of shouting and sputtering when we get home, but I just put Cat down in my room, and I try not to argue with him, so I won’t lose my temper. I promise I’ll keep him in my room and sweep up the cat hairs so Mom won’t have to.”
Most children’s librarians know ‘The Horn Book Magazine’ as a respected source for book reviews, editorials, articles on children’s literature with an off-beat slant – an enlightening one. The July/August issue is no exception. Kathleen Horning offers more than the backward glance, rather a thoughtful pondering, about titles from 1963-1964 Newbery-Caldecott winners. One is It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville.
I am thrilled. In spring 2015, our school book club read this very title! I stumbled across it while shelving. I had never heard of it, but how could a cat-lover not take this home to read. I did. I came back, spruced it up with a new cover and new Newbery seal, and decided to share this treasure with my students. The fact that is it available in a free digital format through Project Gutenberg, sealed the deal.
Ms. Horning notes that this title represents the “birth of modern young adult literature in the form of contemporary realism…,” yet it was my fourth and fifth grade students who read this title. Times have changed. Reading choices have changed. There is more non-stop action/adventure, gritty, in-your-face realism, and certainly more series. So, what a refreshing change this title was for my young charges. It gave them a family with less-threatening issues, a manageable – almost charming New York City – setting, a typical boy searching for his own identity in more identifiable way – arguing with his dad! It did not give them the frenetic pacing, the overly detailed personal interactions, a setting that borders on grim and dystopian. It slowed things down. It let them breathe between the chapters, and think about – even empathize with the characters and their actions. It gave them substance and time to digest it.
It is liked by this generation of readers. It remains on our shelf and on our e-readers for next year’s book club members. I eagerly await their meeting.
Horning, Kathleen. “It’s Like This Cat.” Horn Book 1 July 2015: 80-86. Print.
Neville, Emily. It’s Like This, Cat. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Print