Hi, welcome to this week’s slice of Newbery Pie. In case you missed it, last week, instead of reviewing a Newbery winner, Sara and I gave our Kind-of-too-early Newbery predictions for 2016. This week we’re discussing the 1964 winner It’s Like This Cat by Emily Cheney Neville. We’ll start with Sara’s review.
I had never heard of this book before and so that’s always interesting. The 60s seem to be a pretty good Newbery decade though, I found this book immediately engaging. It was also the perfect length, around 175 pp.
Do we need to give spoiler warnings for 50+ year old books? Consider yourself warned. My favorite chapter by far was Chapter 10 when the Mitchell family is leaving for vacation and Cat jumps out the car window. Dave immediately jumps out of the car door after him. Talk about crazy! Talk about unconditional love for your pet.
My thought: his poor mother.
From a feminist POV (another spoiler!), it is probably really cliche, but I loved that Dave went for the “independent,” interesting girl, rather than the giggly, obviously pretty girl that threw herself at him.
One of things I noticed was the age of the characters. The main character is in his summer before high school. A lot of junior highs at the time were grades 10-12, which would make him 15. There was nothing objectionable about the content, and I have this book in my elementary school library and the book was in the children’s section of the public library. However, Benji and I were talking about books that were “too old” for elementary when we were making our Newbery predictions last week.
What if a book that is more appropriate for middle school wins the medal? The criteria for the award makes this a possibility because the age range is 0-14. What should you tell your elementary students if this happens? Although, this is my 13th year as school librarian, I honestly haven’t always followed the Newbery medal very closely with my students. It has only been the past 3 years or so. I bought Crossover and read excerpts to students in 4th/5th grade; 2 review journals recommended it for grades 6+, but two other recommended it for ages 9-12. Which other media winners from 2000-now could be considered problematic for elementary students?
I give it four out of five Newbery Pies
It’s Like This, Cat has the best opening line of any Newbery I’ve read so far, even the famous “Dark and stormy” line from Wrinkle in Time. “My father is always talking about how a dog can be very educational for a boy. This is one reason I got a cat.” Genius, right? I knew right then that I was going to enjoy this one, and I did. I really related to Dave. I too grew up in a house with an attorney father who liked to argue. Luckily, I had a brother who did most of the arguing back. The tone was irreverent, which was enjoyable, and a little refreshing after the last two overly religious novels.
Sara is right about the book being for an older audience. Content-wise it’s probably the most YA, up to this point . There was even one spot, I could see a parent complaining about if I sent it home with a student. (There was a song on one of Dave’s records about the birds and the bees.) Even mentioning the birds and the bees in an elementary novel runs a risk of parent complaint.
Anyways, I liked the book. I also give it four out of five Newbery Pies.
Next up- I, Juan de Pereja