A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
APRIL 22:

  • Happy birthday William Jay Smith (Birds and Beasts, Ron Koertge (Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, Stoner & Spaz), Eileen Christelow (Letters From a Desperate Dog, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed), and Kathy Stinson (Red is Best, 101 Ways to Dance).
  • It’s also the birth date of Henry Fielding (1707-1754) Tom Jones, and Kurt Wiese (1887-1974), Five Chinese Brothers, The Story of Ping.
  • In 1993, the Holocaust Memorial Museum is dedicated in Washington, D.C. Read The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: America Keeps the Memory Alive by Eleanor H. Ayer.

Today marks the birthday of writer Paula Fox, born in New York City. Her memoir Borrowed Finery tells the haunting story of her childhood and her rejection by her mother who left her in an orphanage. Paula was initially raised by Reverend Elwood Corning and his bedridden mother; later Fox’s Cuban grandmother took care of her.

When Paula Fox, known as a brilliant adult stylist, began producing books for children in the mid-1960s, she seemed unusual in her ability to craft books for both adults and children. Of course New Yorker columnist E. B. White created Charlotte’s Web and Pulitzer-Prize winner Esther Forbes crafted Johnny Tremain. But before J. K. Rowling made children’s books fashionable, only a few writers for adults, who truly had something to say to children, ever thought about writing for them.

Even in her own time, Fox was remarkable for her craft; today her work seems polished to a degree rarely seen in books. She won the Newbery Award for The Slave Dancer and became one of the few Americans ever to win the Hans Christian Anderson Award. Of all of her books, my favorite remains One-Eyed Cat, and when I slipped into these delicious pages once again, I was taken away by the sureness and intelligence of her storytelling.

Set in the mid-1930s, One-Eyed Cat is the story of Ned Wallis who lives with his father, a Congregational minister, and his mother, an invalid because of rheumatoid arthritis. In a ramshackle house overlooking New York’s Hudson River, this family constantly cares for Ned’s mother. A lonely boy, Ned remembers the laughter and gaiety of earlier years, but sadness now engulfs their lives. On his eleventh birthday Ned’s uncle gives the boy an air rifle, against the desires of Ned’s father. Although the weapon is put away, Ned retrieves it, goes out to shoot in the night, and as he presses the trigger, he sees a shadow. Later when he discovers a cat whose eye has been put out, Ned struggles with guilt and remorse. Was he responsible for hurting this animal? Few books explore ethical issues as deftly as One-Eyed Cat or contain such a strong animal rights message.

First published in 1984, One-Eyed Cat won a Newbery Honor and remains a book for a thoughtful child or lover of children’s literature who wants to experience the work of a subtle writer. Many years ago Dick Jackson, Paula Fox’s editor, introduced us, and I thought her to be one of the most brilliant and elegant women I have ever met. In an interview in 2011 with Rocco Staino in SLJ , Paula Fox states that she hopes her legacy will be “a few people” remembering her writing “for a few years.” I am certainly one of those people; if you don’t know her work, give yourself a present on her birthday and pick up one of Paula Fox’s fascinating and original books.

Here’s a passage from One-Eyed Cat:

It was during the Civil War. My father fought in it and was killed by it. He was wounded in the Antietam campaign in the battle on South Mountain in September 14, 1862, and he came home to die. I was six years old, Ned. I can see him now, as clear as I can see you, lying in the bed in our home in Poughkeepsie. His face was as white as the bed linen. My mother was bending over him when I came into their room. Her hand was stretched out over his forehead. I remember how thin her fingers were, how her wedding ring slipped forward to the knuckle, how white my father’s ski was next to that living healthy hand. Then she pressed it to his face.

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Originally posted April 22, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Award Winning, Cats, Family, Great Depression, History, Newbery
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for One-Eyed Cat
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COMMENTS

  1. Linda Elsner says:

    Another “new” author to explore – I remember this book from the cover/title, but didn’t think I wanted to read it – now I know why I need to.

  2. G. Perry says:

    New treasure!

    Going after it now, and how on earth did I miss this author.

    Can’t wait.

  3. Anita says:

    Gordon: I was thinking of you as I posted this. Glad to send you her way.

  4. Liz says:

    Thanks for this review. I’ve been looking for books that touch on gun violence for my blog. I loved The Slave Dancer!

  5. Perry Nodelman says:

    Perry Nodelman. “Through a Glass, Intimately: The Distant Closeness of Paula Fox’s One-Eyed Cat.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 1991, pp. 23-27 .

  6. Anita says:

    Perry — thanks for the link to your article.

  7. G. Perry says:

    I’m really late reporting back but I absolutely loved this book!

    I wish I could get this book in the hands of kids with parents who think it’s cool for their kids to shoot anything that moves with an air or BB gun.

    Great book.

  8. Tish Dersnah says:

    I have never forgotten this book. There is a part where Ned’s mother has received something for her RA (gold leaf, I think) and she is marveling with Ned at how easily her limbs are moving – at least for that day. Such beauty in that passage. I will always remember it.

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