“It’s Like This, Cat” and Old School Children’s Literature

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This book won the Newbery medal in 1964, the year after “A Wrinkle in Time” won.

It isn’t very good.

It’s decent enough, I’ll say. The story of a boy moving into adolescence in New York–making new friends, his first girlfriend, coming to terms with his father. It reads smooth and easy.

But it’s just not very good. There’s no beauty in the story, just simplicity. There’s no magic, just everyday details. I can’t believe this was the best book published in America in 1964

I’ve been reading Newbery winners lately, and the winners this decade are brimming with literary magic. They are achingly beautiful, deceptively complex, and all around amazing. But back in the ’50s and early ’60s, there just wasn’t the same brilliance happening (at least, not that the Newbery award was honoring). Children’s literature now deals with serious things, with the heartbreak of growing up rather than the mundanity, with the truth of life. In the ’60s, it wasn’t really literature yet. It was just books.

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