SPACECAT - petsitterbank


Like a break from the news, such as it is? There’s a classic children’s series from the 1950s you might want to track down.

Here’s how it starts:

The little gray kitten had always been the most adventurous member of his family. He had been the first to explore the roof of the apartment building where he lived with his brothers and sisters. There he had sat for hours admiring the face of the Cat in the Moon until his mother had dragged him in by the scruff of his neck. The next day he managed to maroon himself on top of the flagpole on the roof and the Fire Department had had to be called to take him down.

Now, feeling most brave, he had escaped from the house and, after finding his way into an A&P store, he had eaten his fill of the tasty tidbits he had found on the floor of the meat and fish department. Some silly man had thrown him out and he was strolling along the sidewalk, waving his dark gray tail proudly, as he purred to himself:

Purr-rr-rr, I’m off to see the world.

Purr-rr-rr, I’m off to see the Moon.

Oh, I’ll walk and purr all over the place

And I won’t go home too soon!

Thus begins the saga of a cat who next manages to stow away on an airliner and is found by an Air Force Captain under his seat.

Captain Stone christens him “Flyball” and adopts him. Stone is late returning from leave, but not too worried because he’s the best pilot available for an important mission coming up. And while he doesn’t know it yet, Flyball is going to play a big part in it.

Captain Stone reports back late from leave - with his new friend Flyball.
Captain Stone (and Flyball) reporting in.

SPACECAT was first published in 1952. The future isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still a fun read. Flyball is the main character, but he’s not a little person wearing a fur suit — he’s a cat being a cat, managing the humans around him and making sure things turn out to his satisfaction. (Anyone owned by a cat knows how that works!)

The author, Ruthven Todd, had a wide-ranging career of which children’s fiction was just one element. (It’s quite a resumé.) The book is mostly print, but has a number of black and white illustrations by Paul Galdone, who was a well-known illustrator of children’s books.

GOODREADS has a review headed up with this blurb:

“An amusing combination of comical cat story and science fiction for the youngest fans, made even more amusing by the artist’s interpretation of a cat in a space suit.” — Horn Book

Flyball would go on to have three more adventures: Spacecat Visits Venus, Spacecat Meets Marsand Spacecat and the Kittens. The Dover edition I have here was a reissue from 2018, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. ISBN-13: 978-0-486-82272-3, ISBN-10: 0-486-82272-9

While new editions may be hard to come by, used copies are available. Thrift Books has the whole set for example. The illustrations are charming and the story is enjoyable both for the young and those who still enjoy a bit of whimsy. Aviation buffs may enjoy spotting classic aircraft from the 50’s in the first book, and fans of space adventures from the same period will enjoy the ambience as well.

Flyball the spacecat and Captain Stone are preparing for launch.
No cats were harmed in the telling of this story.

Happy landings!

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