A cat acquaintance of mine recommended Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill to me. She and her children find it their favorite book about cats. After realizing that Averill was the author of the I Can Read picture book The Fire Cat, I bought a copy of Jenny and the Cat Club for myself and another cat friend. Since then, I have come to adore this series of stories about a cute black kitty and hope you will too.
Jenny Linsky is a shy cat. This is my number one reason for liking Averill’s stories. The literary world is full of mean cats, grumpy cats, obnoxious cats. So is the real world, of course. However, the real world is also full of sweet cats, playful cats, and lovable cats. Surely, despite the need for conflict and angst in a story, there’s room for these more pleasant cats too in literature?
Averill proves there is, by basing her portrayal of Jenny on her own timid cat. In the lead story, Jenny watches the neighborhood cats socialize together in a club but flees in terror when two of them invite her to join the club. In the second story of the collection, Jenny finds herself sitting on an upturned basket and watching her friends rumba, because she can’t bring herself to ask anyone to teach her to dance. In a third story, Jenny’s scarf is stolen, and Jenny hesitates to say that she doesn’t want a new scarf or a toy. Rather, she just wants her red scarf returned that her Master had given her. With each new tale, Jenny becomes more confident and comfortable in her friendships. Yet she also always remains polite, mild-mannered, and considerate. That’s what I most appreciate about her.
The fact that Pickles, otherwise known as The Fire Cat, shows up as a character in Jenny and the Cat Club also drew me to the collection. I had first read Averill’s sympathetic story of this homeless cat as a child. Why The Fire Cat was one of the last I Can Read books that I relinquished, I don’t know. Perhaps it was one of my only storybooks about cats, in a library of animal books mostly about dogs. Maybe it was the fun color of Pickles, that of yellow with black spots. Or maybe it was that like Jenny, Pickles wanted to belong but struggled to because of his rough demeanor. At any rate, because Pickles is one of Jenny’s friends, I immediately wanted to like Jenny’s stories too.
Of course, the most obvious reason for my liking Jenny and the Cat Club is that it features five stories about cats. Ever since a stray cat named Lucy came into my life in 2006, I’ve developed a certain fondness for felines. I like to watch them, sit with them, hold them, and even read to them. Lucy died of kidney failure before I discovered Jenny and the Cat Club, but our new cat Cinder has heard all the tales. So has a feral cat that I temporarily fostered. They both approve of Jenny and the Cat Club, as I’m sure Lucy would have too.
After all, what’s not to like about the simple and adventurous tales of Jenny Linksy, her benevolent master Captain Tinker, and her diverse assortment of friends? Some of Jenny’s friends are singers, some are dancers, some are sweethearts, some are fighters. All of them have their own quirks and stories. Of course, the most endearing is that of Jenny who can skate, find secret passages, brave wild dogs, and even share her home with two brothers.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
How would you rate this book?