Flashback Fridays: Ka’ats here. Ka’ats there. Ka’ats and kittens everywhere . . .
With the craziness of school ending this week, my posts are a bit on delay (I’ve had little energy left at the end of the day lately). But I didn’t want to miss a Friday post. If it isn’t obvious from the post title, we’re back to cat stories again. This was a little series of books about two earth kids and a whole lot of alien felines. Written by one of the most well known science fiction juvenile writers of the last century.
Do you remember:
Star Ka’at by Andre Norton , illustrated by Dorothy Madlee (Knight Books, c1976)
I still remember where these were on the shelves in my old library. I remember that the copies they had were hardcovers, and at least one of them had no dust jacket and was just a plain cover with the title. Still, anything with such an intriguing name as “Star Ka’at” had to grab my attention. I’ve always loved stories about cats, so finding a science fiction series that focused on cats as part of the story, was–to my mind–an instant win. The premise is pretty simplistic for these younger middle grade stories. Star Ka’ats are actually alien felines who have come to earth to rescue earth-bound relatives, many of whom are not aware of their interstellar heritage. It seems the earth may be facing some dire catastrophe, and these cat-centric beings which to rescue as many of their kind as possible. In the process , the Ka’ats wind up also taking along two earth children, Jim and Ely Mae who are sort of adopted by the crew and taken with the earth cats to the Star Ka’ats home world. The first book is followed up by Star Ka’at World which chronicles Jim and Elly Mae’s arrival on the Ka’at homeworld and their difficulty fitting in to a society where they cannot mindspeak to control the robots and wind up dependent on the Ka’ats.
Star Ka’ats and the Winged Warriors (1976) This title I’ve never gotten ahold of, but apparently tells the story of the Ka’ats going to visit another Ka’at clan and dealing with monstrous sized critters . Star Ka’ats and the Plant People (1979) Furthers the adventures of our intrepid earth kids and their Star Ka’at friends as they encounter ruins of a former civilization on the Ka’at homeworld and encounter the mysterious Plant People. As far as I can tell, all of these titles have had illustrations throughout the story done by Dorothy Madlee. The illustrations, plus the fairly limited page count put these stories at the younger end of the middle grade spectrum.
These books are unusual in more than one way. There is, to be honest not that much science fiction that has ever been written for young readers. Other than the Commander Toad series by Jane Yolen and My Robot Buddy series by Alfred Slote there’s not a heck of a lot out there. Something you can notice from the cover above (though I admit the hairstyles on both kids are awful) is that Elly Mae is a black protagonist and heroine in this story. To the best of my memory, I don’t know that a lot was made of it in the story itself, but I think it notable simply because it’s still fairly rare to encounter in science fiction for kids, and even more rare to see that character featured on the cover. It does have to be said that there’s some painful dialog going on at times and some stereotyping, but given the rarity of even having this kind of fiction, I still think it worth noting.
My rather regular lament on these Flashback Friday posts is that these books are out of print and hard to come by. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find them in recent years to see how they hold up since I read them as a child.
Have any of you read these books? If you read the Winged Warriors book, is it worth looking for? Inquiring minds want your opinion!
Posted on June 28, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged Aliens, Andre Norton, Books, Cats, Children's Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, Science Fiction, series. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.