Anyone who has ever been owned by a cat will find these speculations engaging, finely tuned, and always with plenty of fond...



An exploration into the emotional complexity of cats, with lots of literary references but mostly personal observations, from Masson (Why Elephants Weep, 1995, etc.).

What Masson did for dogs in Dogs Never Lie About Love (1997), he does here for cats. As always when considering animal behavior, he admits from the get-go that he’s on sketchy ground, making speculations that are intended as food for thought: “We will probably never know what goes through their minds.” There are times when readers may wonder why he chose these “primary” emotions to investigate—narcissism, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity, playfulness, and a dozen subsidiary states—when he is confounded by a few of them: “Are cats narcissistic? No.” Or “Is this jealousy, or is it perhaps some feline rule of etiquette?” But then, much of the time cats are nothing if not inscrutable, as Masson is happy to admit. Their mystery is much of their charm. Yet it’s Masson’s purpose to offer up considerations of cat behavior. Is their attachment a transference—a nostalgia—for the time when they were kittens? And when it comes to attachment, is it more to the world around them than to their human companions? (Masson believes cats are more fully happy when allowed freedom to roam, a point he presents persuasively, unlike many cat enthusiasts.) Much of what the author has to say is common sense: that cats show fear out of threat (but don’t worry; they live in the moment); show contentment from a sense of security (but not happiness: that takes freedom); and can communicate acceptance (purring has been known to lower human blood pressure, perhaps because we have been chosen by one so self-possessed).

Anyone who has ever been owned by a cat will find these speculations engaging, finely tuned, and always with plenty of fond anecdotal evidence as they charge across the species barrier.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-44882-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

Did you like this book?

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

Did you like this book?