June 18, 2003

One-Eyed Cat, by Paula Fox

I picked up my daughter at the library after work tonight. She is spending one day a week there during the summer months helping out with shelving books, story hour and the young adult book group the librarian is trying to garner interest in. I got chatting with the librarian, a very nice woman with virtually no knowledge of the kids market in books or even what young folks like to read. Of course, being the type that will recommend books to anyone who even remotely looks interested, I left her with a list of decent fiction that kids ages 10-14 might enjoy reading. No more "MaryKate and Ashley go to Hawaii" for this crowd!

One of the books I recommended is Fox's "One-Eyed Cat." It's a Newberry Honor book, one of the few lit awards that actually seems to award good writing and not good publishing. The story is fairly simple. A young boy has a father who's a preacher and a mother crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. His dashing Uncle comes to visit for his birthday and brings him a hunting rifle which his father promptly confiscates and banishes to the attic. Curiosity takes over and the boy sneaks up to the attic at night, gets the gun and goes out to do a little target practice. He's startled by a noise, reacts and shoots something. Later, he sees a cat with its eye shot out wandering the neighborhood and realizes he was the one that shot it.

That is a very bald precis of the plot. The father is well portrayed as a heartbroken man with a sick wife struggling to care for her and his son. The mother is realistically depicted without being melodramatic about her pain or illness. And the young boy finds a friend in an old man down the road who takes in the cat and nurses it back to health. When I read the back cover, I worried that here was yet another anti-hunting novel along the lines of Bambi--something not well thought of in my family of avid hunters--but really it turns into more a tale of responsibility and consequences, guilt and repentance than anything else. And it reads really well. Definitely a must read for my daughter.

Posted by Deb English at June 18, 2003 09:01 PM