A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Anita Lobel (On Market Street, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Robert Newman (1909-1988), The Case of the Baker Street Irregular.
- In 1888 â€śCasey at the Batâ€ť by Ernest Lawrence Thayer is published in the San Francisco Examiner. There are several current picture-book editions of Casey at the Bat in print, illustrated by Christopher Bing, Joe Morse, Barry Moser, LeRoy Neiman, C. F. Payne, and Patricia Polacco.
- Itâ€™s National Donut Day, celebrated the first Friday in June. Read Donut Days by Laura Zielin, The Donut Chef by Bob Staake, and Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty.
Today I am thanking all my cat-loving readers, who have had to suffer through endless dog books and dog stories. It isnâ€™t fair, I know! However, June has been designated Adopt a Shelter Cat Monthâ€”with the motto â€śMake Pet Adoption Your First Option.â€ť So to settle the imbalance in the Almanac, Iâ€™m going to use June to present some first-rate cat books. Today weâ€™ll look at the work of Esther Averill, on June 13 Learâ€™s â€śThe Owl and the Pussycat,â€ť on June 18th Seussâ€™s The Cat in the Hat, and on June 28th T. S. Elliottâ€™s Old Possumâ€™s Book of Practical Cats. (Then I can go back to dogs!)
Jenny Linsky, one of the most engaging cats in childrenâ€™s books, emerged in the 1940s and 1950s from the mind of author Esther Averill. Poor Jenny; found as a stray, sheâ€™s taken into the home of the kindly captain. But she desperately wants to become a member of the Cat Club that meets in her neighborhood. To gain admittance, she must demonstrate a special talent. Not until the captain fashions ice skates for Jenny, and she demonstrates her skating prowess, does she finally become a member of the club. In Jenny and the Cat Club, which contains five stories about our intrepid heroine, Jenny goes to her first party (where she shows off her ability to dance the sailorâ€™s hornpipe), acquires some brothers, loses a scarf, and gets her brothers admitted to the Cat Club.
Although all the stories about Jenny Linsky stay true to cat behavior, they rely on the realities of childhoodâ€”wanting to fit in, jealousy over siblings, losing a valued object. All the cat characters have names and personalities, are rendered in black line with spots of color, and engage in clever dialogue. In Jenny, young readers see both their beloved pet and themselves. Perfect for readers ages five through eight who have moved up from picture books but are not yet ready for longer novels, the stories about Jenny can be read a chapter at a time, ideal for thoseÂ at this level of reading skill.
Throughout her career Esther Averill pursued many lines of work. A graduate of Vassar in 1923, she wrote for Womenâ€™s Wear Daily. She went to Paris, and while there established her own press in 1931, where she specialized in superb reproduction of the artwork of some of the most gifted European artists of the time, like Feodor Rojankovsky. Because of the Nazi invasion of Paris, Averill returned to the United States and worked for the New York Public Library. Then she studied art and began creating her own stories about Jenny, set in the Greenwich Village area, where Averill lived.
Although immensely popular in their day, the thirteen volumes about Jenny the cat began to vanish from print. However, in 2003 The New York Review of Books started reissuing them. These editions are commendable not only because they put Jenny back in circulation but also because of the attention given to design and production. All the Averill reissues are elegant books, perfect to give as a gift. It seems so fitting that Averill, who cared deeply about book production, was given the kind of care and attention for her books she once lavished on the books of others.
If there are any cat lovers who have not discovered or reread these books for years, you will be delighted when you pick up these wonderfully written, funny, and engagingÂ sagas.
Pickles wanted to dance with Jenny, too. So Jenny said she would dance with both together, and they led her out into the moonlit yard.
How proud she was to teach them how to dance the sailor’s hornpipe!
The three friends were soon dancing so beautifully that all the other cats rushed over to them. All but Alice.
Originally posted June 3, 2011. Updated for .