Pages: 128 pages
Finished: June 30, 2010
First Published: 1964
Publisher: William Morrow and Company
Genre: children, fantasy
Charlotte was the only one in the Fairlee family who was fond of cats.
Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.
Reason for Reading: Lattimore is one of my favourite childhood authors and there is not a lot about her or her books available on line. One of my long term goals is to review every book she wrote.
Imagine my surprise when I received this book and start reading the jacket flap to find out that this is a fantasy! I had no idea Lattimore had ever taken a turn to the magical with her writing. It is a tame fantasy with only one magical element but all the same a far cry from the author's usual work of either Chinese or contemporary stories.
Charlotte loves cats and is always asking for a pet but her brother is allergic to cats, her mother is frightened it would scare all the birds in the orchard away and besides they have a dog who can't stand cats. But that doesn't stop Charlotte mooning over the cat at the Grocer's every time they go to town. But one day Charlotte sees a cat in her yard, befriends it, and finds it can speak telling its name is Felicia. She tells the cat why she can't take it home with her and suddenly the next day a little girl appears at her door named Felicia. She has changed herself into a girl with magical herbs so she can play with Charlotte. Her parents take in this apparently homeless girl while they try to track down her family. In the meantime, while it was fun playing with Felicia at first her natural cat instincts become clear in ways that are mischievous and sometimes cruel making Charlotte realize that Felicia is a cat and not a little girl. When Felicia is going to be forced to go to school at summer's end she chooses to leave and where she goes leaves the book with a heart warming ending.
Rather than feeling dated, it holds up well today having a feel that the story is taking place in the past due to the dresses the girl's wear in the pictures and having a small town feel to it. The father is not around much, being a doctor he is always at work, and the brief page time he has usually ends with him being called into work. Thus giving the mother the major parental role; there is also a brother and a friend among the characters but again just as side characters. The main focus is on Charlotte and Felicia making this book most suitable for girls.
This was a delightful story! The cat characteristics shown in a girl are fun. She wants to go play with mice in the barn, she walks ever so quietly she's always sneaking up on people, she captures a bird, she suffers indignantly while being given a bath and does not wear shoes and what a trial is the day they try to buy her some for school. Ms. Lattimore's illustrations are lovely and she has captured the cattiness in Felicia very well with the shape and spacing of her eyes and the bows in her hair looking like cat ears, also the curl of her hands and feet remind one of paws. This book a little treasure and after looking for links to it I see that others seem to think so too as it is quite expensive to buy used copies online.
Someone should definitely bring this one back in print. It has appeal to little girls, cat lovers and those looking for wholesome books, plus there is the fantasy angle (which is why I think the collector price is so high). Keep your eye out for this one. A lovely book that has sadly been forgotten.