Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Book Review: It's Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville (1963)

Fourteen-year-old Dave Mitchell lives in 1960s New York City, and he has recently adopted a cat whom he has named Cat. As Dave cares for the cat, he also pals around with his best friend Nick, going to Coney Island and on double dates, and he becomes friendly with a college student named Tom who, while in the midst of robbing a building, helps Dave rescue Cat from a basement, and who is trying to work out what he will do with his life. 

I first read this slice-of-life story when I was in library school, and I remembered really liking it, but it had been so long that I didn't feel I could mark it as read on Goodreads without a re-read. This time around, I gave it a solid four stars. It has a lot of the things I like in middle grade books: a strong narrative voice, an interesting setting, and a coming of age plot line. 

I never read this book as a kid, but I can definitely imagine my younger self really liking it because it doesn't have a lot of heavy conflict or sad moments, and it's just about an ordinary kid doing ordinary things. In that sense, it's a lot like Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, which I read not long after this one. It also reminds me a bit of Beverly Cleary's Strider, especially in its treatment of boy/girl interactions at this age, and its involvement of a pet. 

Interestingly, the copyright on It's Like This Cat was never renewed for some reason, and therefore, due to the way the copyright rules were structured prior to 1978, the book is in the public domain in the U.S. even though it was published in 1963. This makes it very easy to find, and it means there is even a free audiobook version on Librivox!  This is a great choice for readers who prefer character-driven stories and for those who love vintage stories about New York City. 

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