Cat Tales – A Review

Cat TalesGrowing up, I cannot remember a time when we were without a cat.

Throughout my letters home from boarding school in my earliest years I reference our cat. “How is Frisky” “Tell Frisky ‘hi’ for me”. “What has Frisky been up to?”The only thing I show more affection for in these letters is my younger brother, Danny.

There was Frisky and then there were a series of ‘Old Black Cats’  (OBC we called them) and the stories meld into one another. Stories of cats giving birth and tiny kittens; cats running away and being found – or not; cats traveling throughout the country in a sturdy Landrover — all of these thread my memory tapestry.

And all these stories have come into print form through my mom’s book, Cat Tales. Written for children, the book chronicles our cats and our family adventures with these cats.

There was the time when our cat ran away – we were certain she heard our conversation the night before about leaving for America, and, knowing her beloved family was leaving would have none of it. There was the time when she followed us on a hiking trip in the Kaghan valley; the time when frightened by a friend’s dog, she jumped out of a window and ran into the night – only to be found in a place that housed sacred Hindu cows.

Reading Cat Tales takes me back to a childhood in Pakistan. A childhood of travel and adventure, of goodbyes and hello’s, of train rides and camping in the Himalayan mountain range. I’m allowed to time travel and see more of my mom — a young woman who left a small town in Massachusetts where houses had porches and yards had lush green lawns, where you could walk everywhere. I see a young mom who moved across the world to a newly formed Muslim state, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; far away from all that was familiar.

Through the escapades of a cat I see more of what it was for her to trust, to fear, to wonder if she and my dad were foolishly putting a family in danger.

I learn how much my mom loved our cats – all of them.  I see through the pages of a children’s book a need to create a home and a pet being a part of that need. I experience her feelings of loss as we all left for boarding school eight hundred miles away. I watch her extraordinary relationship with my youngest brother based on the years she had alone with him while we were at school. I laugh as I read about the remarkable lengths she would go to in order to make sure the cats were safe, found when they were lost, cared for when they were sick.

I see a young, growing family and parents who prayed grace over our home from day one.

Madeleine L’Engle says if you want to write a book that adults can’t handle, you write it for children. Maybe I can handle this book and empathize more with my parents’ humanity because the book is written for children.

It’s a rare experience to go back in time through the eyes of another, especially when the other is your mom. And this is the beauty of the printed page, the written word.  And so I curl up on my couch with a cup of tea and Cat Tales, going back in time for the final chapter.

Cat Tales is written by Pauline A. Brown and illustrated by Ruth Anne Burke. It is available at Amazon for $8.99

14 thoughts on “Cat Tales – A Review

  1. As soon as I found out about the book, I ordered it on I just finished it yesterday. I enjoyed having a window into your life in Pakistan. Back then when I was one of the cousins growing up in America, I probably couldn’t have imagined what life was like for you. I also loved reading about kitty antics that are familiar to me after years of our own cats. Sadly, our kitty died last Friday after a long life of 16 years, 2 months. He was around for much of our family life as the boys grew up and definitely made his presence known in several interesting ways. I suppose I could write a book……


    1. There is something about pets that connects us – I used to really push that aside, slightly self righteous about how people are so much more important – and they are. But I love that we are often our best when it comes to our pets, our silly, pettiness is put aside. I’d love to hear some of your cat stories!


  2. Thank you, Marilyn! MIchael (oldest grandson, for those who don’t know) said when he started reading it, he could hear my voice. Amazing, but that is really what I hoped for as I was writing it. I truly wrote it for those 17 grandchildren who heard the stories as bed time stories at our retirement home in the Eight-Acre Woods. And I am more than happy to share the adventures of OBC with others. Michael wants me to record it on CD.


  3. How precious. I’ll have to get my hands on a copy – as I see a young mom dealing with loss and her desire for a pet I can imagine your mom’s connection to the cats as you all headed to boarding school.


    1. Yeah – that had never entered my head before. It was so clear that her care for the cat and us in boarding school was all related. Like she knew how it would affect us in boarding school.


  4. Hey Marilyn, I’ve read Polly’s delightful Cat Tales! I read it straight through. Family pets tell us a lot about ourselves.


      1. Or what about Albert, the cat who had nine lives and went to boarding? Nancy had to go all the way to the MCS Board for permission to take Albert to boarding to help in reducing the mice population. I wonder if Eunice remembers. Yes, Dixie had stories to tell! Now we have Molly who could almost be Dixie’s clone.


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