WILD CAT by Robert Newton Peck


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Wild Cat is the accurate, exciting and very bloody saga of a big city stray. The story of the little calico female, from the time she plops out of her mother's body ""like an egg yolk"" up through her own first litter, is superficially the same as any other life cycle story. But Peck doesn't leave the usual discreet distance between us and the visceral reality of an animal's life in the wild. You can actually smell the wet paper bag and garbage-filled alley that are the calico kitten's first homes and, when the kitten plays with an old golf ball that's lodged in a circular drain, the experience is dizzying for the reader as well as her. Nor does Peck spare us the violent details as the kitten's two brothers are eaten by a stray dog (""the tiny bones cracked into warm digestible fragments"") or as she fights a death battle with a canny old rat or the rat's fate when it's eaten by a big white tom who happens along (""his fangs crunched into the spine of the rat. . . next he ate the rat's stomach and kidneys; and after that the rubbery yellow-white layer of body fat beneath the white belly fur""). Even those who accept all this on the grounds of realism may be disturbed by the Lawrentian treatment of the calico's subsequent love affair with the macho white tom (""his odor was strange, yet it was strong and comforting, the smell of a warrior and hunter"". . . ""she relaxed to accept him, until his body flooded her with the hot rush of his seed""). Artistically Wild Cat is far superior to the usual tame, washed-out nature lesson; however the vivid specifics are added for dramatic as well as strictly documentary purposes, and readers who lack the stomach for this sort of thing needn't feel they're closing their eyes to reality. With excellent (and undisturbing) drawings by Hal Frenck, this is powerful, well done stuff, but not for the more tender-hearted youngster.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1975
Publisher: Holiday House