Parents, teachers, caregivers—you might want to consider Joanne de Simone’s “little urban tale” The Metro Cats: Life in the Core of the Big Apple (Gazebo Gardens Publishing). Ages 9-12 are particularly invited in, but the story about the bonding and affection of feral cats forming a family and attracting friends may also appeal to younger readers.
De Simone, a dramatist and film reviewer who lives in Riverhead, has a sweet story to tell about the kind of cats that usually don’t figure in fiction. A colony struggling to survive in the city, these wild ones struggle every day to find food and survive challenges from other cats, from traffic and from animal control. They are the Metro Cats, constituting a “self-styled, sophisticated, cosmopolitan feline underworld” in Manhattan (They are joined for a short while by Carson and Neville, cats from California locked accidentally in a truck that made its way to New York). There’s Lauren, for example, a classy uptown cat, who falls for big, awkward Buster, who adores her and is at the center of a plan to rescue her when she’s picked up by Animal Control and her three babies are left alone. A scrappy, tough-looking, boastful bunch from the West Side known as The Scratches has adopted Buster.
The style is simple, the incidents touching and the theme edifying. There are also references that may go over the heads of some youngsters—the World Trade Center, Anderson Cooper reading the news on TV. Still, Metro Cats, by way of anthropomorphism, makes the case to be kind to feline street urchins who seem here more capable of compassion, domestic harmony and loyalty than many humans. The book features illustrations by Jeff Chaney.