Brooke Shirts's Reviews > Highway Cats

Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle
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's review
Apr 03, 2009

really liked it
Read in January, 2009

I don't quite know what to think about this book -- it's probably the most peculiar animal story I've read in a while, and that includes Kathy Appelt's The Underneath.

(thinks for a moment)

No, it probably ties with The Underneath for peculiarity. However: Highway Cats is more tightly written, and I feel that it probably has broader appeal. I'd have no qualms giving this to younger readers.

The story revolves around a group of rough-and-tumble cats living in an abandoned lot, and how their lives are transformed when three mysterious kittens are abandoned near the highyway. The kittens have something of a mystic quality; they seem to survive the suburban wilderness regardless of how many obstacles they face. Gradually, the cats lose their cynicism and rally around the kittens, eventually banding together to scare away a pack of developers from turning their home into a new parking lot.

What this book really reminds me of is Disney's animated films of the '70s -- the cats seemed to have a rough-but-not-too-threatening manner of speech and behavior reminiscent of The Aristocats or somesuch. And I mean that as a compliment -- Lisle has shown herself to be adroit at mixing realism with small touches of fantasy before (see Afternoon of the Elves) and it works especially well here. The boundaries between feline and human behavior are blurred (one of the cats runs a cat-food company, primarily via cage-raised rats), giving the whole book a feeling of a puzzle. Is it an allegory? A fable? Or just one heckuva lovable-if-weirdo story?
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