The DLM’s Christmas book was The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill from the lovely New York Review Children’s Collection. He fell for the cat books back when he met Jenny Linsky in Jenny and the Cat Club. (That’s Jenny in the red scarf). Because this is a Jenny’s Cat Club story, this setting is the same: New York City. However, as the title indicates, this story takes place in a hotel. Tom, who becomes the Hotel Cat, is a stray who decides the Royal Hotel shall be his home:
The skyscrapers surrounding the Royal Hotel did not attract this cat. In bright new buildings such as these, he’d never had much luck. The shabby Royal seemed more friendly, and when he drew close to it, he liked it even better. Its old bricks had a pleasant, crumbly smell. (2)
It turns out that the Royal needed a cat, for its most recent cat had retired to the country. Thus, Fred the Furnace Man gives Tom both a name and a job–to chase the rats and mice from the hotel cellar–that includes both room and board. At night Tom explores the floors above, where he meets Mrs. Wilkins, a genteel elderly lady who lives at the hotel. They become fast friends. When Tom discovers that some of the hotel guests bring their cats with them, Mrs. Wilkins helps Tom to see that his job is to welcome these guests, not scare them away. This winter in New York City is known as the Winter of the Big Freeze, and this freeze brings many unexpected guests to the Royal, including the owners of the Cat Club cats, and they bring their cats with them. This keeps the Hotel Cat busy! The story ends very happily for Tom and all the other cats with a ball in the grand ballroom of the Royal.
The best word I can use to describe Esther Averill’s stories is charming. The stories are old fashioned in tone, mood, and diction. Black and white line drawings by Averill are scattered throughout the story, providing just enough of a visual hook for my young listener. Steady Eddie and I took turns reading this one aloud to the DLM and Benny at bedtime, with Steady Eddie reading most of the story. However, the parts I did read were interesting enough to me that I actually wanted to read the whole thing myself. I look forward to adding another Jenny’s Cat Club story to our collection. Highly Recommended. (1969)