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The Cats of Roxville Station Hardcover – May 14, 2009
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George, whose writings have taken readers many places in the natural world, now brings them a story set close to home: a New York train station, the gathering spot of a group of feral cats. Ratchet, an orange-and-white cat, is dumped on the road. Suddenly on her own, she must adapt to the life of an outdoor cat, foraging for food, finding a place to live, avoiding predators, and adjusting to the feral-cat hierarchy. There’s a boy, too, Mike, who wants to bring her home; unfortunately, his foster mother hates cats. Without anthropomorphism, yet personalizing her characters, George follows Ratchet as she leaves kittenhood and becomes the savvy feline who can watch out for herself as well as her eventual kittens. Simply and directly, George weaves the whys and wherefores of cats’ lives (as well as those of other animals) into a smooth narrative. The adult characters are sometimes overdrawn, especially Mike’s unpleasant foster mother, but with the felines in the forefront, they’re easily ignored. This is a book kids will both enjoy and learn from. Grades 4-6. --Ilene Cooper
Cat lovers and George s fans will be happy she is back. "Kirkus Reviews"
?Cat lovers and George's fans will be happy she is back.? ?"Kirkus Reviews"
"Cat lovers and George's fans will be happy she is back." - "Kirkus Reviews"
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I picked this up at the library in the section for older kids, because it was on display and was about cats. (I'm an adult.) I started reading it and finished it in two sessions because I was so engrossed in it. There is also information about other animals woven in, such as owls, foxes, and raccoons. Warning: there are a few sad events.
"Rachet the cat splashed into the river.
"She felt the wetness, and hating it, reached out to claw this enemy. Her paw struck a stick, raked it for a better hold, and she was swimming.
"An eddy caught her, swirled her shoreward until she felt stones under her feet and ran out of the water. Shaking her paws, she four-footed it into a woods that edged the river. When she was out of sight of the bridge she stopped, shook herself, and frantically licked the water off her sodden tiger-striped fur. With her forepaw, she cleaned her ears of the river water, then her face and whiskers. The bruise on her ribs where the lady had kicked her yesterday had been soothed by the cold water and was no longer throbbing.
"When she was almost dry, she crept deeper into the night woods. Rachet, like all cats, found her way in the dark with the rods in her eyes, which could take in the faintest of light, even starlight, and make the night into day. Smelling dryness, she hurried to the fallen leaves under an oak tree and frantically rolled in them. Then, shivering with loneliness and fright, she meowed in her baby voice to bring her mother. There was no answer. Her world had changed."
Did you know that there is meaning in the way a cat holds its tail? That cats can have altercations through which the social order is forever altered despite there not being any physical contact?
THE CATS OF ROXVILLE STATION is the story of Rachet the cat and of Mike, the foster child who longs for a cat his can call his own. As is Jean Craighead George's style, readers will come to know all sorts of true and weird stuff about the animal characters as they follow the action. In this case, we learn about Rachet and a half dozen other feral cats as well as the other animals living in this corner of a suburban neighborhood. There is Windy the barn owl, Ringx the raccoon, Cheeks the chipmunk, Fang the milk snake, Shifty the red fox, and Lysol the skunk. (No, the author does NOT give names to the neighborhood mice and rats. In this death-don't-have-no-mercy environment, that would be akin to naming the individual chips in a bag of Fritos. Nevertheless, we do learn gnarly details about the ability of mice to reproduce on a scale that necessitates the use of exponents and/or calculators.)
"Rachet rubbed her own personal scent on the buckets and boxes to make her smell-trail through the junk. To a cat the smell-trail was as bright as neon lights are to people."
For that matter, death hasn't offered Mike much mercy, either. His mother died when he was three; his father died when he was eight; and after a group home experience and a failed foster situation, he came to live in a big, old house with Mr. and Mrs. Dibber. The kindly husband shared boating and baseball with Mike, but then he died, too. Now Mike is alone with the hard-hearted widow and she has no use for cats and little praise for Mike.
But like Sam Gribley from George's MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, and Miyax from JULIE OF THE WOLVES, Mike is an observant and resourceful adolescent -- a survivor -- who is determined to find a way through the difficult hand he has been dealt. His patience and determination is the perfect match for a cat who has only known cruelty by the hands of humans.
I have not paid a lot of attention to the feral cats who have come and gone from my farm over the years. In recent months there has been a black cat that I have observed periodically: Sometimes I look out the upstairs window and see it wandering up or down the long driveway. Sometimes I go out to the barn at night to check on the goats, and glimpse it bolting out of the hay room when I enter. I am happy to share the farm with cats in the same way that -- I learned from this book -- the Egyptians welcomed and began domesticating these curious creatures four thousand years ago.
The past couple of days, when I see that black cat outside, I find myself taking a second look and watching more thoughtfully. Thanks to Jean Craighead George, I have a newfound respect for cats -- the kind of respect that comes from really knowing about something.
I was disappointed by the way these events are handled in the book. Although the cats do display happiness and joy and some other emotions elsewhere in the book, the mother cat seems bereft of much feeling at all when tragedy comes into her life. I got the feeling that she felt nothing at all at her losses, and even if the author was avoiding anthropomorphism and trying to be "realistic" I find the mother cat's lack of reactions hard to fathom.
I think this would have been much better suited to being edited and produced as young adult or adult book, in the manner of Watership Down, rather than a book that appears to be targeted to the 9-12 age group, not because there's sadness in it, but because of how the events are portrayed.
Enjoy it for the deep insight it gives to cat behavior and communities, but be very aware of the sensitives of the child to whom you are giving the book or reading the book because of the death and tragedy in the book and how such is handled.