Ahoy there me mateys! I recently saw this book somewhere and of course was interested because of the title. Cause cats be awesome. Then I saw that Amazon had it for free. So I downloaded it. Apparently it be the 1964 Newbery winner. Which of course I had forgotten about despite having read the list of Newbery winners a billion times. I also had no idea what it was about. I picked it up yesterday on a whim.
I adored it. It be a coming of age tale about a boy named Dave, growing up in Manhattan in the 1960s. He happens to get a stray cat named Cat who changes his life. While the Cat parts are absolutely lovely, the real story of the book revolves around Dave’s evolving relationships with his family and friends. He roams all over Manhattan living an everyday life. Dave is naïve but endearing and good-hearted.
It is also a slice of life story. The writing style is simplistic in style but does deal with more mature themes like homelessness, parental abandonment, mental illness, chronic illness, and death. Despite the dark themes, the tone is lighter and not depressing. Dave learns and reflects and changes because of what he experiences.
I think this is an excellent example of a children’s classic that people should still read. While it seems simplistic to a reader today, this book was credited with introducing the first-person present tense in children’s books. It was also said to be too realistic. An fantastic article discussing the background of the book says that in the author’s “Newbery acceptance speech, “Out Where the Real People Are,” Emily Neville defended this new genre for teens: “The real world, with its shadings of light and dark, its many-toned colors, is so much more beautiful than the rigid world of good and bad. It is also more confusing. I think the teen-age reader is ready for both.” This book helped usher in a new trend in teen literature that forever changed the landscape of publishing. Arrrr!
Side note: Matey Jackie where be yer review for this? To see the list of the other books I have read check out me Newbery page! Also Matey Jackie, cause I know ye be a dork like me, check out this 1973 dissertation about the first 50 years of the Newbery Medal.
Goodreads’ website has this to say about the novel:
Dave Mitchell is fourteen and growing up in the midst of the variety and excitement of New York City. In this quiet, reflective, and humorous story of a boy’s journey toward adulthood, Emily Neville captures the flavor of one kind of New York boyhood — the sights and sounds of Gramercy Park, Coney Island, the Fulton Fish Market, the Bronx Zoo, the stickball games played in city streets, the fascinating mixture of nationalities and eccentrics that give the huge metropolis so much of its flavor and excitement. But most of all the author tells a realistic tale of Dave’s affection for a stray tomcat, his comradeship with a troubled nineteen-year-old boy, his first shy friendship with a girl, and his growing understanding of his father as a human being and not just a parent.
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