Poetry from the porch #7


Today, I feel loss. It sneaked into this house, my house, despite my defenses.

Adopted from a shelter, a petite, black cat lived in the house for years.

The thing is, she only had three good legs. She dragged the fourth, along with her tail which swept the floors-back and forth – leading a path for us to follow. Hit by a car, and left by the side of the road, she came to us circuitously.

We called her Soot.

Her sweet nature craved love. Her meow, barely audible, could never quite muster the attention she demanded. Yet, she could claw her way up any chair, sofa or bed with those strong and muscular front legs and then, curl herself into the softest, smallest ball and purr as loudly as any big tom prowling through our streets.

Who knew then – oh, more than a decade ago and several cats later -that she would leave me with a broken heart?

Today I long, with such an ache, for her presence.

Cats & books & cats

One of the joys of loving to read is that one is assured of birthday gifts in the form of books. The Travelling Cat Chronicles was such a gift this past December. I was told by the gift-giver that it is one to savor for a bedtime activity as I decompress from the day’s errand running, hither and yon.

So, I did.

There is a plethora of online reviews from quite reputable and well-written sources. Thus, I will limit my opinion here to my initial reaction.

This is not a title that I would have chosen for myself; I am not terribly enamored of anthropomorphic stories, except perhaps children’s. This title straddles both adults’ and children’s worlds fortunately, with the winding narrative style.  Whether I liked or disliked the story was dependent upon my mood for the reading hour. Beware! I am a fickle and flighty reader.

Yet, here is the beauty of the gift: it is a glimpse into how others see you; your likes, your aura…

My gift-giver was ever-so-close to the mark, and invited me into this “other” space I may have never visited otherwise.

This is a “thank you” to all who gift me with books! You widen my world.

Among other “cat” books given to me throughout the years:

The Priceless Cats and Other Italian Folk Stories by M.A. Jagendorf, illus. by Gioia Fiamenghi (New York: H. Wolff, 1956) from my parents-in-law who supported my Italian education in every way possible!

The King of the Cats and Other Feline Fairy Tales (London: Faber & Faber, 1994) edited by John Richards Stephens, and
The Siamese Cat (New York: Brentano’s Inc., 1928) by Leon Underwood, both from a librarian colleague who was downsizing and thoughtfully gave new homes to those books she cherished.

Boris (New York: Harcout Books, 2005) by Cynthia Rylant from a teacher-colleague and friend who knew my heart so well during our years together.

Arikawa, Hiro, and Philip Gabriel, trans. The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Berkeley, 2015. Print.

Vintage children’s lit

both cats

It’s Like This, Cat

“Pop does a lot of shouting and sputtering when we get home, but I just put Cat down in my room, and I try not to argue with him, so I won’t lose my temper. I promise I’ll keep him in my room and sweep up the cat hairs so Mom won’t have to.”

Most children’s librarians know ‘The Horn Book Magazine’ as a respected source for book reviews, editorials, articles on children’s literature with an off-beat slant – an enlightening one. The July/August issue is no exception. Kathleen Horning offers more than the backward glance, rather a thoughtful pondering, about titles from 1963-1964 Newbery-Caldecott winners. One is It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Neville.

I am thrilled. In spring 2015, our school book club read this very title!  I stumbled across it while shelving. I had never heard of it, but how could a cat-lover not take this home to read. I did. I came back, spruced it up with a new cover and new Newbery seal, and decided to share this treasure with my students. The fact that is it available in a free digital format through Project Gutenberg, sealed the deal.

Ms. Horning notes that this title represents the “birth of modern young adult literature in the form of contemporary realism…,” yet it was my fourth and fifth grade students who read this title.

Times have changed. Reading choices have changed.

There is more non-stop action/adventure, gritty, in-your-face realism, and certainly more series.  So, what a refreshing change this title was for my young charges! It gave them a family with less-threatening issues, a manageable – almost charming New York City – setting, a typical boy searching for his own identity in more identifiable way – arguing with his dad! It did not give them the frenetic pacing, the overly detailed personal interactions, a setting that borders on grim and dystopian.  It slowed things down. It let them breathe between the chapters, and think about – even empathize with the characters and their actions. It gave them substance and time to digest it.

It is liked by this generation of readers. It remains on our shelf and on our e-readers for next year’s book club members. I eagerly await their meeting.

Horning, Kathleen. “It’s Like This Cat.” Horn Book 1 July 2015: 80-86. Print.
Neville, Emily. It’s Like This, Cat.  New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Print