It's Like This, Cat is a novel written by Emily Cheney Neville that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1964.
Plot summaryThe protagonist is Dave Mitchell, a 14-year-old who is growing up in mid-20th century New York City. His mother is asthmatic, her attacks worsened by the stress she feels when Dave and his father have their frequent arguments. Dave's refuge after a clash with his father is with Kate, an elderly neighbor whose apartment is filled with the stray cats she loves. Dave adopts one of the cats, names it "Cat", and takes it home. "Cat" brings both joy and adventure into his life.
Cat's presence brings Dave into contact with several new people, including Tom, a troubled college-aged boy, and Mary, his first girlfriend. While documenting Tom's growing maturity, the book also provides glimpses of several of New York's neighborhoods and attractions, from the Fulton Fish Market to the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island.
Direct link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_Like_This,_Cat
I like the protagonist, Dave, a lot so far. He's a good kid, but not a goody two-shoes. He's mildly rebellious, in the way that good kids his age have. The other characters are little on the One Note Johnny side so far (His mom so far is only defined by her asthma, his dad is a grumpy bear, and "Aunt" Kate is a crazy cat lady.) but I think that as I keep reading, more will be revealed of who they are.
Cat isn't the focus of the story--Dave has a life outside of his new friend--but it's obvious that they share a bond. The prose is simple and declarative--no run on sentences, and the author does a good job thus far of showing and not telling.
Although it's rather dated (it's set in the 1960s) I would recommend this book for kids between the ages of 11-13, with one warning. Towards the end of the book, a kitten is mortally injured, and "Aunt" Kate puts it out of its misery. Though not terribly graphic, this scene was pretty upsetting to me as a young cat lover. It was also the only scene that stood out in my memory, almost 35 years later.
I'll keep working on reading it. It's a good one, and one that despite the one heartbreaking scene, is one I was always fond of.