1964: It’s Like This, Cat (New York, New York)

VERDICT: Treasure

Sally’s Rating: 3/5

It’s Like This, Cat follows the amusing adventures of a 15 year old boy and his pet cat in 1960’s New York City. More of a young adult novel than a children’s book, this Newbery Medal winner is a cute coming of age story that touches on the issues of family fights, first loves and new friendships.

This book perfectly captures how new pets bring unexpected happiness and adventure into their households. Dave is just a kid who is trying to stay out of trouble, whose life is aimless and pedestrian, until his cat doesn’t come home one night, which forces him to meet some new people in the neighborhood. As a result, there is no real plot to speak of, but his episodic adventures feel very true to life and the people he meets are fun to hang out with. Dave’s adventures with Cat lead him to getting involved with a burglary, picking up girls on the beach and chasing an escaped cat across a busy parkway. His coming of age journey sees him go from being unsure of how to act around girls and getting into dumb fights with his best friend to becoming more confident and self-aware later on in the novel.

The wry and relaxed tone of the novel makes it seem like it’s for an older audience than it is intended for. The first line (“My father is always talking about how a dog can be very educational for a boy. This is one reason I got a cat.”) sets the stage for a story whose casual observations about life are filled with subtle humor. The narrator’s thoughts are funny in his naivety, and the descriptions of Cat’s actions will appeal to almost anyone who owns a cat. While the story blends both humor and melodrama, it does get fairly serious in a couple of chapters that deal with the loneliness of Aunt Kate – the resident old cat lady, whose name even further illustrates her life revolving around her favored companions.

Emily Neville’s It’s Like This, Cat recalls an older and more simpler time with references to record stores, payphones and other outdated paraphernalia. A love story to New York City, the book is authentic in its treatment of a teenage boy’s trials and tribulations of growing up. But ultimately, it’s pretty forgettable.

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