Thursday, April 21, 2016

Nostalgia Read: House of Thirty Cats

House of Thirty Cats
Author: Mary Calhoun

It's Thursday again!! Time for another Nostalgia Read!

House of Thirty Cats was one of the first Chapter books I read in elementary school. I recently bought a used copy online because I wanted to read the book again. It was one of my favorite books as a child, probably because I love cats.

I first read this book in 3rd grade, just after adopting my first pet cat. The kitty was wandering around the grade school, homeless and getting thinner every day. I heard a teacher say that they were calling animal control to come pick her up. I couldn't let that happen. So I told a fib. I went inside and told my teacher that my kitty had followed me to school, asking if I could walk home (I only lived a couple blocks from the school) and take her back home before she got lost.  My teacher gave me permission and I took this homeless kitty home with me. I rang the doorbell to my own house, because I knew better than to bring the cat in without asking permission first. I had practiced a good sob story during my walk from school. I had to talk my mother into letting me keep the cat. My mom opened the door and said no before I even got a word out. Then I begged.....I pulled the sad face and the "But mom, they are going to call animal control and she will be put to sleep if we don't give her a home.''  That worked. The kitty got to stay!!

 I named her Tiger, which made no sense at all because she was a mostly white calico.  I remember ordering this book from a school book order form soon after I got Tiger.  I had a kitty of my own....and wanted to read a book about cats!

Mary Calhoun wrote many children's books, including the Henry Cat books and the Katie John series. The book was illustrated by Mary Chalmers. The pictures are simple black and white sketches, but I loved the drawings when I read the book as a child.

The plot is pretty basic. Sarah wants a kitten. She knows where she can get one, but she's afraid to ask. Miss Tabitha Henshaw has a lot of cats at her house. Sarah has even nicknamed the small old lady's home as The House of Thirty Cats. Miss Henshaw is a bit eccentric, so Sarah is afraid to ask if she might have a kitten. She finally works up the courage, and ends up making friends with Miss Henshaw and her cats. But then, a
neighbor starts complaining about there being too many cats. Miss Henshaw only has two weeks to get rid of most of her cats, or animal control will come in and remove them. Sarah agrees to help. Can she find homes for enough of the cats before time runs out?

I have loved cats since I was a little girl, so this story really tugged at my heartstrings back in the 70s when I read it the first time. As an adult, I still love the story, but found myself looking at the situation with grown-up concern. I foster for the local humane society. Mostly I foster orphan kittens who require bottle feeding. They take a lot of work and make a big mess. The most I've ever had was 7 fosters plus my 4 pets ...and the fosters only stayed til they were adopted. I can't imagine having 30 cats!! I sympathize with Miss Tabitha and with Sarah as a catlover.....but, as an adult, I also understand the neighbor's point. 30 cats is too many! Luckily Miss Tabitha had Sarah to help her find homes for most of  her cats!

The cover shown above is the artwork I remember from my first copy of this book. The book has been reprinted several times since it was first published in 1965. The last time it was re-released was in 2002, so copies shouldn't be too hard to find.

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