“The Abandoned,” by Paul Gallico; The New York Review of Books, $15.95, 312 pages, ages 8-12.
While trying to save a stray cat from certain death, eight-year old Peter is struck by a coal truck and thrown to the side of the road. During the resulting coma he is magically turned into a fluffy white cat. Unrecognized by Nanny, (the boy’s parents are apathetic and generally uninvolved in his upbringing) he is chased from home. A fellow stray named Jennie helps Peter navigate the rough and violent London streets in this classic adventure/fantasy novel originally published in 1950.
This book is catnip to those who adore cats. Yet for those who may not be of the feline persuasion, it’s a worthy read nonetheless. It’s easy to see why J.K. Rowling is a fan of Gallico’s skill at intertwining magic with reality, and some sections of the book recall scenes from the various Harry Potter books.
The undercurrent of disappointment and unhappiness makes this a captivating story for adolescent readers as well as older readers looking for a whimsical tale filled with exploits and bravery. The Abandoned also chronicles the daily struggle of a city stray, from participating in catfights to finding cozy spots to spend the night.
Last published in the United States in 1991, The Abandoned is now being republished by the New York Review of Books. According to Bookfinder.com, this work has been one of the most sought-after out of print titles in the United States for the past three years. This edition is bound in striking red cloth and the cover is graced with a beautiful Palmer Brown watercolor of two cats sitting in a shipyard.
In addition to writing children’s books, Gallico (1897-1976) was a sport’s columnist for the New York Daily News and short story writer. Some of his works were adapted to film, most notably The Poseidon Adventure in 1972.
photo credit Carl van Vechten