Flashback Fridays: When cats fly . . .
Posted by Stephanie Whelan
You’re a group of kittens that has been born–amazingly–with wings. But city life is no place for these four kitties, so they head to the country. But things may be no safer there! Do you remember:
Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin, illustrated by S. D. Schindler (Orchard Books c1988)
When I say the name Ursula Le Guin to you, many of my readers who know Science Fiction and Fantasy will recognize this author for her esteemed adult and young adult works. And for good reason. She’s an astonishing writer with some powerful things to say, and a strong voice and advocate for stories and future writers. Check out her speech at the 2014 National Book Awards here. But I bet a lot fewer readers know that this author also penned a series of whimsical books for beginning readers. These early chapter book stories clock in at about 40 pages a piece, but I’ve loved them since the first time I encountered them as a child.
Mrs. Jane Tabby couldn’t tell you why her litter of kittens was born with wings, but she can tell you that winged kittens in the city are a hassle and half. So when the youngsters are old enough, they set off for the countryside and hopefully safer spaces. But the kits quickly find that the predators are many, and they don’t fit anywhere in the forest. Their very difference makes them suspect to so many animals who don’t accept them or are afraid of them. Even humans aren’t necessarily friendly towards these extraordinary furballs. But the kits do finally find their way to humans who don’t mind their differences and are happy to welcome them into their home.
These are simple stories, and fairly simplistic. No surprise since they are meant for early readers. The magic of cats with wings is the only magic within these otherwise real-world stories of creatures looking for acceptance and a home. The illustrations throughout help to make these friendly and accessible “small magic” stories. Readers who’ve been delving into Le Guins richer works for years may find these bare bones to their taste, but they’ve been perfect for helping my son launch himself into longer chapter books. And there’s just something so charming about cats with wings that these continue to be a fondly remembered series.
There are four books in all that are part of this series, Catwings Return (1989), Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings (1994), and Jane on her Own (1999). Great for the young cat lover or the older cat lover who’s charmed by these titles. I admit when I first saw them as a junior high school kid I was a little in disbelief that someone would create something so whimsical and place it in very matter-of-fact surroundings. It made you want to believe that cats with wings were possible.
It’s a marvelous little series, though it won’t keep the stronger reader busy for long! These bite sized books are best in helping those just encountering short chapter books to begin to piece together stories without too much detail or complication. I am still delighted to keep these stories tucked next to my Star Ka’ats books by Andre Norton. Now I just want to get some Space Cat tales to tuck next to them and I’ll feel I’ve got a proper set. ^_^
Any other fans of this catfantastic series?
About Stephanie WhelanI'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.
Posted on April 29, 2016, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged Authors, Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, fantasy, kidlit, literature, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, reviews, series. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.