It's Like This, Cat is a the perfect title for this book. Because I think that what it does best is describe a time and a place - neighborhoods in New York City in the early 1960's. A lot of the Newbery winners do excel in capturing particular settings, come to think about it. Maybe I've come to expect that as a given, and that's why I didn't like this book more than I did, which was moderately.
It's interesting, too, because Neville gets the feel of it down (I think pretty well, though I don't know the setting myself) without mentioning current political events or too much of the pop culture of the time. It reminded me of Betsy Byars' Summer of the Swans in that way - except instead of a girl and her tennis shoes and backyards and Green Acres, Neville shows us a boy with his duck tail (which gets turned into a "butch" cut) and apartment buildings with stoops and cellars full of storage lockers, and record players with needles and Belafonte records. Young teenagers ride their bikes everywhere and explore the city by themselves, calling their parents (even if their parents are beatniks) at dinnertime if they're going to be late.
Apart from the setting, the story is a quiet coming-of-age story of a young teenaged boy (unnamed for a few chapters, but you finally learn he's called Dave) who befriends a number of different characters in his neighborhood. One of the more eccentric ones, whom the local kids call Crazy Kate the Cat Woman, gives Dave a young tomcat. Dave is a rather lonely kid - he has no siblings, and he fights with father - and his adventures with Cat lead him to some new perspectives on his family and new friends.
It was all very nice, and I enjoyed reading it, but it didn't really make the profound impression on me that I feel like a Newbery winner should make. Am I expecting too much? Do I really need more "issues" in a story? Is it weird that my main thought after finishing It's Like This, Cat is on the lack of drug use in the big city?
I did find the whole book, including illustrations, online at the University of Pennsylvania's digital library. Take a look at it and see what you think.