10 Oct / The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
If you’re of a certain age (like me), you probably still remember some of the titles that made you wide-eyed those many decades ago … Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret or Forever or this one, the now 36-year-old Cat …!
I still recall the shock of discovering young Marcy Lewis who actually talked back (even yelled!) at her parents! She dared to slam a door or two! She stood up to other figures of authority, and even got herself suspended! ‘Good daughters’ didn’t DO those things back then. Wow, what a revolutionary she was in my tween eyes!
One recent weekend, I pulled out the CD version of Cat and the whole family listened together on the way to Philadelphia and back. What a delightful, albeit somewhat strangely jarring, experience rediscovering childhood favorites with my own kids (who are both older now than I was when I originally read Cat)!
First things first … we all enjoyed the book. I got teary listening to an epilogue the late Paula Danziger added to the 30th anniversary edition of the book. Having read so many of her titles through the years, I realized that she must have passed away soon after she made that anniversary recording; she was not yet 60 when she died in 2004.
Next thing … listening together provides ample opportunity for some serious discussions. Marcy is all-too-aware of being overweight, and yet her mother is alarmingly vocal about Marcy’s extra pounds (Wintergirls alert!). Marcy’s father is a controlling sexist pig (whoops, did I say that?) who is more concerned about what others think than the needs of his own family. Marcy’s mother has practically erased herself as an individual in trying to please everybody else.
Ms. Finney, the fabulous new English teacher, insists on the marital-status-neutral title of ‘Ms.,’ much to the chagrin of the conservative school administration who thinks ‘Miss’ is just fine. But, the most important lesson of all we discussed … even kids can instigate major changes when they stand up – in this case, to the school board – and fight for what they know is right! Go, kids, go!
While some of the details of Cat might seem dated (hey, who doesn’t show signs of aging after almost four decades?), the power instilled in stories of underdogs committed to justice never wanes. Again … GO, kids, GO. Be catalysts in making the world – immediate and beyond – a better place!
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult