Why did you choose to edit “The Cat Agent,” by Alison Lurie, for Cayuga Lake Books?
Alison, my late wife, wrote the book in her late eighties but wasn’t able to place it with a big New York publisher. Young Adult novels these days are either fantasies or are about problems teenagers face in today’s world. Alison’s book wasn’t market-driven; it fit in no such categories. I was convinced, though, that there were kids out there who would enjoy it, as well as her family and friends. A small press like Cayuga Lake Books is perfect for The Cat Agent.
Do you know what inspired Alison Lurie to write this book?
Her granddaughter, Susanna, used to love to draw cats. She made up cat characters who were curious, confident, and clever. I think they appealed to Alison.
Who is the audience of “The Cat Agent”?
My own grandchildren would have liked it when they were as young as 8, and will still enjoy it now, at 16. Most kids like cats, adventures, mysteries, and being reassured that they can solve problems.
What might adults enjoy about “The Cat Agent”?
The cat characters are a lot of fun to read about. The hero isn’t very brave at first but learns to become so as the book goes on. It has some of the same amusing, friendly style as her adult novels that were so popular.
Do you think there are lessons kids can learn from this book?
It’s not a book that is supposed to be instructive or morally uplifting. These sorts of books went out of style many years ago, fortunately. But kids will enjoy seeing how unsure Tom is at first in a complicated world, and how he learns to rely on his cleverness and observational skills to solve mysteries as well as any agent does. They’ll see that increased confidence can make you brave. They’ll also see that Tom, the hero, is successful because he really cares about his work and about the people whose problems he helps to solve.
How does the “voice” in this book differ from Alison Lurie’s other novels?
It’s never satirical, as it was in some adult books. Kids prefer stories told straightforwardly. It’s the voice of a person who likes and understands children and small animals and wants the readers to enjoy them, too. A personal, encouraging voice.
What’s your favorite element of “The Cat Agent”?
It’s very lively and entertaining and has characters—feline and human—that readers of all ages can relate to. The book has real warmth. I enjoyed every minute I spent with Tom and his friends.
The Cat Agent will be published by Cayuga Lake Books in the spring of 2023.