Allison's Book Bag

It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville

Posted on: June 16, 2010

Many years I used to own It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville. Then I gave my copy to my younger brother. Yet I have never forgotten it. When I recently saw it at a library book sale, I immediately grabbed a copy. Upon rereading it, I was surprised at how undramatic the story and how average the main character is compared to many of today’s books. Yet I still love the book.

The main character is fourteen-year-old Dave. His life is peopled with his parents, an eccentric cat lady neighbor named Kate, a couple friends, and eventually a girlfriend. Oh, and then there’s cat. He’s a stray that sometimes visited Kate and to whom Dave gave a permanent home partly to spite his dad who prefers dogs.

I found it refreshing to read a book that is just about a nice boy and his life in New York, especially about a boy who is good and fun but still has moods, shows attitude, and makes mistakes. I also appreciated reading about a cat and especially one who stays put throughout the book. So many stories about pets and their owners are about either dogs or about animals who are separated from their owner and now must make the long treacherous journey home. Okay, there is one chapter where Cat escapes from the family’s car during their road trip, but this chapter ends up being more about how to avoid bullies and why parents should listen to their children than about an herioc pet.

In a sense, this book could have been set in anywhere. The themes explored are universal. In another sense, this book belongs in New York with its apartment complexes, subways, traffic jams, homeless people…. I like the story both for its themes and its sense of place.

This book is largely about relationships … and change. I am a sucker for these books, especially done with humor and morals intact. Dave and his dad fight. Dave’s mom has asthma attacks when they do. Dave befriends Tom, who stole once on a dare. He also meets Mary, but before he is ready to date. The lives of all these individuals of different ages gently interwine to tell a tale of gradual change. That every one of the significant characters are basically decent people doing the best they can is part of the charm of It’s Like This, Cat.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

6 Responses to "It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville"

Our family recently read and discussed It’s Like This, Cat as part of its monthly reading of a classic novel. A part of our family library because it was a Newbery Medal winner (1964), I chose it for us to read because I enjoyed reading it, despite my being even older than the father of the fourteen-year-old hero (Dave) rather than a teenager and my being a dog lover rather than a cat lover, and thought that the rest of the family would also like it.

Why did I enjoy reading it? Basically because as its book jacket observes, it is the “quiet, reflective, and humorous story of a boy’s journey toward adulthood.” I like such stories because they remind me of my own journey toward adulthood many years ago and because our family includes two teenagers (a boy and a girl) now making their journeys toward adulthood. My family and I may live in a different place and time than Dave did but, as you suggested when you said, “In a sense, this book could have been set in anywhere,” the key elements of our journeys are much the same as his.

I also found interesting each of the subplots that the book jacket identifies: “Dave’s affection for a stray tomcat [Cat], his comradeship with a troubled nineteen-year-old boy [Tom], his first shy friendship with a girl [Mary], and his growing understanding of his father as a human being and not just a parent.” I also liked the episodes involving “Crazy Kate the Cat Woman,” their providing much to the humour of the book.

My desire was realized–our whole family liked It’s Like This, Cat. Thus I heartily recommend it to anybody, young and old, who likes reading or viewing realistic stories about young people.

Interestingly, Emily Neville wrote all her novels in the same decade, the 1960’s. I wonder why she started and why she stopped? One of these days, we’ll need to check out her other books. She wrote three others after It’s Like This Cat.

I love I Like This Cat. It’s very interesting how Dave is soooooo interested in that cat 😀

Having my own stray cat now for about five years, I related to how the relationship between Dave and Cat developed. Their relationship is interesting and realistic and fun. Mine with Lucy has been too! 🙂

I enjoyed this book a lot as well. I really liked how the book started. Nick doesn’t simply discover a stray cat, which would have been the easy — but uninteresting — way to go. Instead, there are issues with his father that lead to Nick taking in a cat.

I also really like the setting — I totally felt like I was experiencing New York City at the time the story takes place.

And finally, I liked that the book is very realistic when it comes to Nick’s relationship to his cat. Even though the cat is present in much of the story, the story doesn’t really revolve around it. Yes, it’s because of the cat that Nick’s life takes the path it does, but the cat doesn’t end up becoming the main character. This isn’t Benji with a cat. It’s actually a very realistic and satisfying story about growing up.

Oh, and that reminds me… Another thing that makes the story realistic is that Nick’s life goes through realistic changes, especially when it comes to his friends. He doesn’t stay best friends with the same kid throughout the story — his friendships evolve.

I checked this book out from the library, and my copy had a library sticker over the author’s name. Because the story was so realistic, I assumed that I was reading a fairly autobiographical story written by the adult “Nick.” So I was surprised when I finally discovered that the story was actually written by a woman. Clearly Emily Neville knows how to inhabit characters different from herself.

P.S. Allison, I love your blog! But then, I’m a bit biased. 😉

Thanks for writing the first post, critiquing my reviews before they’re posted, and suggesting I create this blog. I hope you’ll contribute many more posts and add a few of your recommendations of books. (Hint! Hint! ;-))

I searched online for information about Emily Neville, who according to Wikipedia died in 1997. She wrote for newspapers, along with marrying a newspaper man, and so writing certainly formed a large part of her life. She lived as an adult in New York and raised five children. Presumably this background allowed her to create such a realistic portrayal of adolescents, families, and New York. I wonder if she owned a cat?

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