Wednesday, December 30, 2009
If you call me a Cat Lady, I just might not return your calls. (You know who you are, and let me just say I only have ONE cat.) It's no secret that I have a certain fondness for felines, and I'm not ashamed. Cats are independent, loving, and intelligent - and they can be left to their own devices. Children's literature is full of examples of clever cats from the Cheshire Cat, the Cat in the Hat, and of course, Crookshanks of Harry Potter fame. It's Like This, Cat by Emily Nevile, winner of the 1964 Newbery Medal, expresses this reverence for cats.
The first line of the novel is: "My father is always talking about how a dog can be very educational for a boy. This is one reason I got a cat." This quote encapsulates the relationship between Dave Mitchell and his father. As an early adolescent, he wants to push the limits and develop his own identity while his father wants him to stay firmly grounded in their apartment in New York City. To escape his fights with his father, Dave briefly holes up at Kate's, his neighbor and resident Cat Lady. In the process, he grows attached to one of her kittens and becomes the owner of a new cat, who he names "Cat." Cat's wanderings lead him to meet new people, including Tom, an orphan seeking a new start in New York. As Dave interacts with his new friends and his world widens, his understanding of his father gains depth. Dave accepts that ". . . he really isn't a bad guy, and I'm growing up, we can see eye to eye". It is Cat who propells these live-changing events forward, and it's no surprise. While Dave struggles with his impending independence, Cat provides a model of balanced freedom and limitations. He may run with the other Toms, but he'll always come home. Truly, It's like this, Cat. Dave can just follow his example and he'll never go wrong.