Set in the early 1960s, this is the coming-of-age story of Dave Mitchell and his pet cat. (He of course chose the cat after an argument with his father over which would make a better pet a cat or a dog: his father chose a dog.) In the course of looking out for Cat, Dave runs across some interesting characters in his neighborhood including Tom, a high school drop out and Mary his eventual love interest. Dave also learns what it’s like to have compassion towards a neighbor in trouble and how he can depend on his dad when things get tricky.
Neville, E.C. (1963). It’s like this cat. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
At first, I found this book to be a little cheesey, but I have to admit it grew on me the further into it I read. If the reader can get past all the pop culture references in the book, the basic story is one that many teens may be able to relate to- having conflict with parents and wanting to make decisions independent of them; wanting to choose their own friends; spreading their wings and moving independently as mature individuals. Of course, it always helps to have some guidance along the way from an adult that can be trusted and this book portrays what I think are believable relationships between Dave and his parents- especially his father. In the end, Dave learns to appreciate his parents and their interest in him. He also learns that growing up is not as straight forward as it seems.
“This book is a stark contrast to coming-of-age stories like Shiloh that feature a lonely boy and a dependent, loyal dog who become fast companions. That’s because this book is about a boy and his cat. Both are fiercely independent and curious. That curiosity leads both into some scary yet exciting adventures. Author Emily Neville really captures the innocence and exhilaration of catch-as-catch-can life for the main character as well as those who cross his path. Her caricature of both cat and boy behavior is humorous and true-to-life. In addition, her romantic portrayal of New York City through the eyes of youth is magical. At the same time, one feels all the familiarity and intimacy of a small town as she weaves the chapters through landmarks like Gramercy Park and Coney Island and then back to “the neighborhood.” The matter-of-fact portrayal and acceptance of family dysfunction is refreshing in a book more than 40 years old.”
Brown, S. (2008, February 14). Book review: It’s like this cat [Review of the book It’s like this, cat, by E. Neville]. Early childhood education resources [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.eced-resources.com/2008/02/14/book-review-its-like-this-cat/
The first thing that came to mind was using this either in a lesson in a school setting about the 1960s or maybe as a book for a middle school or high school book group. The students or young patrons could read the book and talk about what is alike or different about the “teen experience” from the earlier time period to the present.
The book could also be looked at from a geographic perspective and readers could talk about New York city. A “virtual” trip could be taken to the various spots discussed in the book via Google Earth and maybe even watch the movie version of the show, West Side Story, that Dave and Mary go to see when they spend the day together in New York.