Allison's Book Bag

Socks by Beverly Cleary

Posted on: January 15, 2014

Socks is an adorable cat story by Beverly Cleary, one of children’s literature most-beloved authors. It’s always a delight to pick up a book by Cleary, whose characters ranged from kindergarteners to teens and dogs and cats to mice. I also enjoy any opportunity to read an animal story. Socks also has special significance to me, because I read it aloud to my own cat Lucy in the few days before she died.

A young tabby cat with four white paws, Socks was the favorite cat of Debbie and her brother George. Despite needing to sell their newest litter of kittens, the two are being finicky about the customers they accept. For example, when a bickering and noisy family show interest in Socks, Debbie decides to dump Socks into a nearby mailbox rather than allow the family to buy Socks. When the Bricker couple come along, the two children are satisfied that Socks will go to a nice home and finally allow him to be sold. The chapter is an odd one, in that we rarely meet Debbie and George again. Instead the Bricker couple and Socks are the major characters. Socks is also an atypical book for Cleary, in that usually the human leads are children but instead Socks is bought by a young newlywed couple.

As for Sock’s adventures, Cleary is known for her sympathetic and humorous portrayal of average young people. Socks is no exception, except his adventures are that of an indoor cat. The Brickers make Socks a bed from a carton and old sweatshirt, but don’t object when Socks chooses instead to sleep on the living room couch. They feed him dry and tin cat food, as well as buy him raw meat.  The Brickers also talk to him daily and Socks becomes the center of their household. It’s every indoor cat’s dream. From Cleary’s memoirs, I learned that in her early marital years, she also had a cat. Whether Socks is based on this cat or not, Cleary well-portrays cats and their quirks.

Of course no story, not even one by the masterful Cleary, would be complete without conflict. One day the Brickers bring home a small bundle which to Socks looks like a new pet. The bundle makes smacking noises and has a small, wrinkled, furless face. Socks is immediately jealous. He becomes even more anxious when this bundle begins to capture all the attention of his owners…. If you haven’t guessed by now, Sock’s rival is a baby. The rest of this 150-page touching chapter book is about how Socks adjusts to no longer being the center of attention. Visitors all expect that the Brickers will get rid of him, but why would they get rid of a family member? Except what happens if he bites Mrs. Bricker? Socks is also about how his owners learn to balance having both a baby and a cat. As with all of Cleary’s stories, life  works out in the end. Until it does, however, there are some suspenseful and sad moments.

Socks is one of Cleary’s less famous characters. As pet stories go, it’s a sweet and fun one. Although my cat Lucy never faced the intrusion of a baby in our home, she did put up with a ornery foster dog. And like her, Socks ultimately learned how much he was loved.

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

How would you rate this book?

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Spring Reviews

Almost a year after I announced that it was time to take a step back from this blog, Allison's Book Bag is still here. I'm slowly working back up to weekly reviews again. Each week, there will be one under any of these categories: Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, religious books, or diversity books. Some will come in the form of single reviews and others in the form of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Freddy the Frogcaster and the Terrible Tornado by Janice Dean
  • The Distance Between Us by Reya Grande
  • Hearts of Fire from The Voice of Matyrs

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