Hey Cat, NO means NO!

Welcome! We’re on the Character Assassination Carousel and my horse is up next. Organized by Ninja Mom, the Character Asssassination Carousel calls upon various blog writers to submit a children’s book to scrutiny and critique; ultimately reducing it to a cardboard pulp under the heel of a formerly-fashionable and still-comfortable-so-I’m-wearing-them-until-the-style-returns leather boot.

The last assassination credit goes to Vinny C. from As Vinny C’s It who’ll have you thinking twice before trying to put one over on a bear-fox-cow trio should the opportunity ever arise. Once this Carousel ride is over and you’ve regained your balance, James from Hitting the Crossbar will be up next.

Riding the Carousel horse this month is the king of all unwelcome house guests: The Cat in the Hat.

Simple story: Mother is out. Kids are home alone, seemingly left in the care of a goldfish. Then, BUMP! Bigger, unknown creature comes in uninvited, imposes a game, mocks the goldfish, trashes the place, ignores a request to leave, goes to get his friends and trashes the place some more. Then, when the kid finally speaks up to kick him out, the Cat guilt-trips him for not liking his antics, sulks and leaves. Cat returns once again to clean up and leaves the kids wondering whether or not to tell Mother about it when she gets home.

Classic passive aggressive narcissistic behaviour. Let’s break it down:

1) Mother is out:
Go Mama! Have fun! Tell us all about it!

2) Kids are home alone, seemingly left in the care of a goldfish:
I’m totally on board with this. Seriously. Kids are too coddled these days. Back in the Cat’s day (first published 1954) you could leave your kids home alone while you popped out to meet your lover or fill your valium prescription. Everybody did it. Plus, the goldfish has a good head on its shoulders. Or gills, or whatever. Actually, the fish’s lack of shoulders and accompanying arms and hands with which to either pre-emptively lock the door or grab a Cat roughly by the scruff of his neck and toss him out into the rainy afternoon may be the main oversight here in terms of choosing a sitter.

3) BUMP! Bigger, unknown creature comes in uninvited:
Just rude, really.

4) Cat imposes a game and mocks the goldfish:
Here’s where things start to get weird.

“I know some good games we could play,”
Said the cat.

“I know some new tricks,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.

“A lot of good tricks.
I will show them to you.

Your mother will not mind at all if I do.”

Whoa! whoa! Hold the phone. “Your mother will not mind at all if I do?!” Who introduces a game with that line? “Hey – let’s play checkers. Your mama won’t mind.” Or “Let’s go ride bikes. S’ok with your dad!”

More like “Come on into this gingerbread house made of candy, kiddies. Your mom texted to tell me to tell you to follow me down this dark forest path. Let’s go!”

First red flag: right there.

Up to this point the children are silent due to, at best, politeness; and at worst, paralyzing fear. Meanwhile the voice of reason (unfortunately housed within a fish whose protective instincts are thwarted by its inability to breathe air) speaks up to protest.

The Cat’s response? Bwaaahahahaa! Shut it fish! I balance you on an umbrella! Your protests invoke not sympathy but a scolding that you do not know how to have fun! Fun for me is entertaining your charges by threatening your life! Into the pot with you!

5) Cat trashes the place, ignores a request to leave, goes to get his friends and trashes the place some more:
Rude, rude, rude, rude.

6) Kid finally speaks up and the Cat lays on the guilt.
The kids are still awfully quiet. First: “Sally and I did not know what to say.” Ok, paralyzed with fear. Then: “Sally and I did not know what to do.” Still paralyzed. But later:

And I said,
“I do NOT like the way that they play
If Mother could see this,
Oh, what would she say!”

Followed by the first real action on No-Name’s part: he fetches his net and catches Thing One and Thing Two and finally finds his voice:

Then I said to the cat,
“Now you do as I say.
You pack up those Things
And you take them away!”

Go No-Name!! For this little outburst he gets a guilt trip from a sulky Cat. What a shame. What a shame. What a shame.

7) Cat cleans up leaves the kids wondering whether or not to tell Mother:
This is the one and only point in the book where the kids crack a smile. It seems that lots of good fun that is funny, not to mention FUN-IN-A-BOX wasn’t such a laugh after all. The only thing that gets a smile (of relief) out of these two is the tidying up bit.

Still, I fear it’s too little too late. Narcissist-Cat (Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW!) tidies up the crap on the floor but can he clean up the psychological mess in little No-Name and Sally’s minds as they wrestle with the decision of whether or not to tell their Mother that they’ve just survived a home invasion?

A Cautionary Poem
For Those Who Hear a Bump That Makes Them Jump

The Cat in the Hat
Is a creepy old guy
He comes uninvited,
He doesn’t say why
He breaks all your stuff;
He thinks this is fun
But it’s not; it’s quite rude
And it shouldn’t be done.

Learn from the fish
He’s really quite wise
He wouldn’t allow
A beast twice his size
To bring in his Things
To fly their two kites
And balance your knickknacks
From towering heights.

And so, if you’re faced with a Cat,
so,
     so,
          so…
Here’s how to proceed (and the key word is No!) 

If someone comes in
And upends all your toys
And ignores your protests
And then brings in his boys
Speak up! Tell him no!
You shouldn’t stay quiet
With a Cat who can’t tell
A game from a riot.

The fish knows what’s right;
You must listen to him
You should put that Cat out
And pour Mom a tall gin
With tonic and lime
And some ice on a tray:
A nice treat for Mom
On a wet, wet wet day.

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14 responses to “Hey Cat, NO means NO!

  1. Someone has needed to knock that cocky cat down for a long while. Brava! And thanks for riding!

  2. Love love LOVE it! I despise that cat. Unfortunately, my 3 boys find him hilarious.

  3. Thanks guys! I actually had to borrow a copy of the book to refer to while writing this post. I’d given ours away because it creeped me out too much…

  4. I hope this inspires a Tim Burton remake.

  5. I haven’t seen the existing movie but it seems scary enough. A Tim Burton version would be truly horrifying!

  6. AMEN, sister! LOVE your poem. I have NEVER liked this book. Totally creepy. Home invasion? Keeping secrets from mom? Animal cruelty? The only thing missing is when Thing One and Thing Two gang rape Sally and tell her that nobody will believe her. What fun!

    One of my Tweeps just told me that the Cat is a metaphor for children’s imagination. Yikes, really? Because it sounds more like a metaphor for teen abstinence. (Keep your knees together, girls. Do not let that obnoxious Cat in your front door, or backdoor, for that matter.)

  7. The cat doesn’t exist. He is a metaphor. He is the small boy’s imagination. He is the small boy’s adventurous life. He is the join between fantasy life and real life. When his mother is out, when adults aren’t watching, another part of his personality comes to life. A life where spots appears on beds, whether snow goes bonkers before it’s shovelled away, where pets speak and somehow games make things break. It’s an adventure into his perception of what is right and wrong, the blurs between mischief and fun, the lessons that teach him where his boundaries are. Kids don’t know, consciously, that the cat IS them. But they do seem to know that he is a part of their lives, and he is safe, not a creepy stranger. It’s why they love it so much. It’s a work of genius! So there. I spose you all think that the Tiger who came for tea is an actual Tiger? Sheesh.

  8. Pingback: Character Assassination Carousel: The Misunderstood Maleficent | Hitting the Crossbar

  9. Pingback: the Carousel spins | Chapter Four

  10. AND THE WORST PART? The cat comes back. In the very next book. He comes with a hook in that very next book. He and his hook stain the house red with spots, and he leaves them outside in the snow the big snot.

  11. So funny. My husband and I were just calling the Cat a narcissist, too!

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