It’s Like This, Cat, by Emily Neville, was published in 1963 by HarperCollins.
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.
It’s Like This, Cat captures the 1960s feel perfectly (as one might expect, given that it was written then…so, okay, maybe not the best way to describe it), along with the sights and sounds of “old” New York. It’s funny…I really don’t like NYC (not a city fan, especially huge cities), but reading about it in the past makes me feel incredibly nostalgic. Of course, I also love stories that take place in the 1940s-1960s, so maybe that also has to do with it.
The book is “slice of life,” though not as isolated as these sorts of book can sometimes get. The book is united with the thread of Cat and of Tom, the teenager Dave stumbles across with the troubled home life. Meeting Tom causes Dave to think about his own home life and, specifically, about his father. The book is a superb story about a father/son relationship—and there’s also lots in there about family, too, and how not all families are alike (even if a child might think so).
Perhaps the biggest flaw, for me, was that there wasn’t anything truly remarkable that stood out to me. I enjoyed the story and I enjoyed Dave’s growth as a character. However, there wasn’t anything in particular that made me stand up and say, “Yes, this is why this book should be read.” That doesn’t mean I think it shouldn’t be read; it simply means this isn’t the first book that would immediately jump to my mind if I wanted someone to read a book set in 1960s New York.
It’s Like This, Cat has some delightful moments, and overall I enjoyed the father/son relationship as well as all the family moments. However, the book was lacking in memorability and “stand-outness.” I’m not sure I would remember it in a month, to be honest.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
Genre: Children’s, Historical Fiction
“Take care,” [Mom] says. “No fights.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll stay out of fights,” says Tom quite seriously.
We go down the stairs, and Tom says, “Your mother is really nice.”
I’m sort of surprised—kids don’t usually say much about each other’s parents. “Yeah, Mom’s O.K. I guess she worries about me and Pop a lot.”
“It must be pretty nice to have your mother at home,” he says.
That kind of jolts me, too.