I have recently become fascinated with a series of children’s books about a small black cat named Jenny Linsky and her friends in the local Cat Club. Esther Averill published 13 of these tales between the years 1944 and 1972; I read 11 of them last month. The stories are all over the place as far as reading levels go, but there are two things all of the Jenny Linsky books have in common: charming stories and adorable illustrations. I can’t recommend them enough. Where to begin? You could start where I did, with a collection called:
Jenny and the Cat Club: A Collection of Favorite Stories About Jenny Linsky
This book collects five of Esther Averill’s earliest Jenny stories:
- The Cat Club (1944) – Jenny Linsky, a small black cat with a red scarf, moves in with Captain Tinker and longs for membership in a local organization known as the Cat Club.
- Jenny’s First Party (1948) – Jenny goes wandering with her friends Pickles and Florio. They discover a cats-only dance party. Jenny impresses the attendees when she competes in a dance-off with the beautiful and talented Alice Featherlegs (in her only series appearance).
- When Jenny Lost Her Scarf (1951) – Jenny’s red scarf is stolen by a dog just as preparations are beginning for the Cat Club’s annual spring picnic.
- Jenny’s Adopted Brothers (1952) – Jenny convinces Captain Tinker to adopt two homeless cats. Then she gets jealous when they move in.
- How the Brothers Joined the Cat Club (1953) – Jenny’s new brothers, Checkers and Edward, must display unique talents to earn membership in the Cat Club.
I found that collection to be so charming that I did something I hardly ever do…I went to my library and used it to acquire books! I reserved every Esther Averill title they had in their system. The library books I read were:
The School For Cats (1947)
Jenny has trouble adjusting to life at boarding school. Pickles the Fire Cat keeps bothering her with his firetruck, so she runs away. The plot here only made sense when I noticed that this story was published before “Jenny’s First Party”, the story from the collection where Jenny and Pickles are close friends. This story shows how they met.
Jenny’s Moonlight Adventure (1949)
It’s Halloween night and Jenny must overcome her fear of dogs in order to return a nose flute to Madame Butterfly. The beautiful Persian can’t come downstairs to get her musical instrument because she fell out a window and injured her paw. The only other way to reach her requires passing through an area controlled by the local dog gang!
Jenny’s Birthday Book (1954)
Jenny Linsky celebrates her birthday with a picnic and dance in the local park. Whereas the other Cat Club stories I’d read up to this point were for older readers, this one was only a step or two away from being a picture book. Jenny’s Birthday Book wasn’t a very complex story, but it was still worth checking out as it featured a lot more art than the other books. Some of Esther Averill’s best illustrations can be found here.
The Fire Cat (1960)
Pickles redeems his past as a bully by joining the fire department. This is basically the origin story for Pickles the Fire Cat. It must’ve taken awhile for Pickles to redeem himself all the way, as he was still sort of a bully when he met Jenny at boarding school in The School For Cats (see above).
The Hotel Cat (1969)
Whereas Jenny’s Birthday Book and The Fire Cat were essentially picture books, The Hotel Cat is a full-fledged 160+ page novel. In it, all the neighborhood boilers freeze, so Jenny and the other members of the Cat Club have to check into a hotel while new boilers are being installed. This isn’t your regular old hotel, though; this place has an official hotel cat named Tom. He takes care of the mice and rats and checks in on any pets who might be staying with their owners. Tom doesn’t know what to make of the large number of guest cats, but his friend Mrs. Wilkins suggests that he try to make the best of the situation.
Captains of the City Streets (1972)
This novel was the last Cat Club book Esther Averill wrote. I don’t have any reservations in naming it my favorite in the series. Here’s the story: two tramp cats, Sinbad and the Duke, head off on a journey to find their own house. They eventually find one but it doesn’t come with a full pantry. They’ve still got to wander the streets in search of the meals they need to survive. Pickings are slim and the two friends lower themselves to tipping over a trashcan. It’s not long after this degrading act when they realize someone has taken notice of their arrival in what supposedly had been a cat-free neighborhood up until then.
There are two other Cat Club books, Jenny Goes to Sea (1957) and Jenny’s Bedside Book (1959). My library didn’t have either of these. The first one was reissued a few years ago, so I will just buy it whenever I find it in a children’s book store. Jenny’s Bedside Book is the only book in the series that is currently out-of-print. There’s an old copy of it for sale online for $200. That’s not going to happen, but I hope to eventually track down the book and read it. I’m also planning on rereading everything listed above. I originally read the library books in publication order; it’s now my intention to reread everything in chronological order (story-wise). I took notes to keep everything straight: