This is the story of "The Last little Cat" by Newbery Award winner Meindert DeJong, who won for "The Wheel on the School" in 1955. DeJong has an interesting biography found here.
A list of the Newbery Awards can be found here.
This book was originally published in 1961 and the slow pace and simplicity of the times shines brightly throughout, making it a wonderfully refreshing read. It was then out of print for many years, but has been brought back thanks to Whole Spirit Press, who specializes "in renewing out-of-print books that help the reader learn from the inside out...Our primary markets are private and home schools around the world". I highly recommend taking a lookey-loo at their lovely titles.
Back to the book...I originally purchased this book for my animal loving girls, who are so fond of cats, though due to my severe allergies to them, we shall never be able to welcome one into our family... : (
I read a nice review of it on Bob & Nancy's site here and figured it would be a wonderful addition to our library. This book is so incredibly sweet and simple.
The story is about a tiny black kitten born in a dog kennel, of all places! One of seven kittens born to the cat who roams the dog kennel, the Last little Cat is so tiny that it gets neglected and accidentally falls down into the cage of an old blind dog, right onto its head. The old dog's head falls directly into the bowl of milk it had been lapping up, spilling the milk everywhere. The hungry and innocent kitten instinctively begins to lick the milk off the chin of the dog, who had lost most of his senses in his old age. The dog's strongest sense is the sense of touch and the feel of the rough little tongue on his fur, licking, loving, and needing warms the dog from the inside out, soothing the old dog to sleep. His chin comes to rest on the little cat, who, feeling warmth and a full belly for the first time in his life, the Last little Cat begins to purr under the dog's woolly chin. From that day on, they loved each other.
Until one day, in the spring, the kennel owner, who happens to own and love the old blind dog, takes his crate out of the kennel to enjoy the warm sun. The owner doesn't even see the little black cat under his furry dog's chin.
New smells and sights beckon to the little cat and he ventures out into the world, not realizing that once the sun goes down, the dog will be returned to the barn for the night, the door will be locked, and no milk will be waiting for the little cat. The night falls.
The poor cat, hungry, cold and alone - missing his surrogate momma, wanders the night, looking for a warm place and perhaps something to eat. He encounters six houses on his journey. Each house turns him away or he flees from it until at last, exhausted, lost and hungry, he reaches the last house - the seventh house - just as the sun rises. On the porch of the house is an empty bowl and a clean dog bone. The cat curls up in the spot of sun, feeling lost and alone - only 7 houses away from his beloved barn and best friend.
The cat is wakened by the sound of a man, happy to see *someone* was waiting for him. He scoops up the kitten, takes him inside and feeds him warm milk, happily exclaiming that it is actually the man's birthday! The Last little Cat came to him on his birthday! In pure delight, the man excitedly exclaims that he wants to give the cat a birthday present in return. He runs out...past six other houses to the barn and back again with a wire cage. Inside the cage is the old_blind_dog!!! The man tells the cat that now that the little cat is living in the house, the old blind dog won't be lonely in the empty house. That is why the old blind dog *lived* at the kennel with the other dogs, so he'd have some company.
When he opens the wire cage to let the dog out, to the man's surprise, the little cat walks inside and settles down lovingly into his old spot, under the dog's chin. He starts purring and the dog and cat snuggle together, reunited at last.
Finally, the Last little Cat is home...
This book is so wonderfully simple and touching. It makes a sweet read-aloud for ages 4+ and can be an early reader for a child reading around a Grade 2 or 3 level. There is a lot of repetition in this book, making it appealing to the pre or kindy age child. The book is balanced with the themes of abandonment and loneliness the cat feels with the nurturing tenderness it receives from the old blind dog and the kennel owner.
In the dedication, it simply reads,
"For Mohammed, my cat.
For Mohammed came to me."
I found it very sweet and innocent, even more so because of the dedication. And yes, it made me cry a few times...