Dr. V’s take:
Mrs. Crump’s Cat is just the charmingest.
I found this little gem at an otherwise underwhelming used book sale and almost didn’t pick it up. The book is ten years old, I’d never heard of it,and most of all: it was kinda long.
Let’s talk about long children’s books for a sec. When I’m in scholar/teacher mode, I have zero patience for fretting about the length of a piece of writing: it should be as long or as short as it needs to be, and I don’t want to hear one single other damn thing about it.
When I’m in parent mode, asked to read a fourth book aloud in between whatever other tedious domestic crap I have to do….suddenly the length of a book matters a lot more. It’s not that I don’t like reading to my kids—-I certainly didn’t use my extremely minimal free time to start a blog about it because it sucks—-but reading aloud can be fatiguing, and even though I respect and appreciate my pre-literate kid’s desire to hear all stories, any stories, any time, his curiosity far outweighs my stamina and quickly taps out my roster of funny voices.
The formula is actually pretty straightforward: the longer a children’s book is, the more opportunities there are for readers to get bored. And being bored is the worst—especially when you’re trying to hang out with your kid. Reading books together shouldn’t be another errand to be tolerated for everybody’s own good, like check-ups at the doctor or shopping for new khakis to wear at Christmas or whatever.
Mrs. Crump’s Cat had a few multi-paragraph pages—-I almost put it down in a fit of TL;DWR(A) (too long; don’t wanna read (aloud)). But I was so charmed by David Roberts’s ultra-modern illustrations (particularly his portrayal of the title character) that I took the 33-cent leap, and I was so glad, because this story about a stray cat wriggling its way into the life of Mrs. Crump, who, though she insists she has “no use for a cat,” is obviously smitten with the creature at first sight, is subtle and funny and warm and beautiful to look at—-I really can’t say enough about what Roberts’s illustrations add to the story. We’ve read it probably a dozen times within a couple of days, but because the contrast between Mrs. Crump’s words and actions is so great, it’s possible to read it a slightly different way each time.
Sadly, author Linda Smith died six years before Mrs. Crump’s Cat was published by HarperCollins; a friend or family member must have had her manuscripts published on her behalf. It’s not possible to purchase new copies of the book anymore, which makes me appreciate its permanent place on our shelf at home even more. I’m so glad I didn’t put it back in the pile over a few extra words.