All-ages novel about fostered cats in a used bookshop. The experiences of the cats parallel those of a foster child who apprentices in the shop.
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Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats
Used bookshops, big and small, often have a resident cat or two roaming the aisles, sleeping on the book stacks, or sleeping on the customers. Here is a novel all about one bookshop and its resident cats, Stomper and Buglit; and about Kris, a 12-year-old boy who apprentices in the shop. Kris is a little bit like the cats: he's a foster child getting used to a new family, and the cats are in the bookshop being fostered for the local shelter. Stomper and Buglit are a little bit like Kris: they get into grouble, have some wild adventures, and find out just what family really means.
After Kris took his foster brothers to the kids’ book room, Mrs. Dehlvi went to the counter to talk privately with Mrs. O’Malley.
“I want you to tell me what this book is that Kris talks of so often, please, Mrs. O. He all the time is mentioning a certain book which Mr. Mack uses to teach him book collecting. Can you find Kris his own copy and let me buy it for him? I want to have it in time for his birthday next month, if possible, please.”
Mrs. O’Malley thought for a moment, and then realized she was referring to a basic book on identifying first editions by their publisher.
Suddenly, Buglit jumped up onto the counter, right beside Mrs. Dehlvi’s large purse. She sniffed it and sniffed it in delight. The cat then flopped down beside a large yellow straw flower that was sewn to one end and gazed at it adoringly.
“Our little nature lover thinks your flowers are real. Buglit! Those aren’t real, Baby. You know, sometime someone ought to plop you out in a wildflower field so you can roll around on the real things!” teased Mrs. O’Malley.
The ladies laughed and Mrs. O’Malley said she would make certain to order a copy of the reference for Kris, but warned that it might be two or three weeks before it arrived. That was fine with Mrs. Dehlvi, who smiled at her three boys when they came back into the room.
Dev was straining to hold onto Stomper as well as a couple of books. The silver cat was squirming against his arms like a man trying to struggle out of a too-tight pair of pants at bedtime. Kris stopped Dev and took the cat in his own arms just long enough to place him on the big, red sofa. He then told Dev and Bijay to sit on either side of Stomper very calmly, and to pet him there where he would be more comfortable.
Dev handed one of his two books to his brother. The young boys then each held a book on their lap in one hand while petting a side of Stomper with the other. Mrs. O’Malley was pleased that the big cat was taking this treatment so calmly. His personality seemed to be changing, probably mostly due to the extra attention from Kris.
After a moment, Dev took his eyes away from his book to look closely at Stomper. He then bent over and placed his ear next to the cat’s face.
His mother asked him what he was doing.
Dev sat upright again and slid one of his little fingers under Stomper’s chin, stroking him before answering, “He has much to tell me, using only his purrs.”
Bijay looked wide-eyed at his older brother, taking him seriously, and then leaned down to place his own ear near Stomper’s mouth. Frowning after a few seconds, he then glanced up at his mother, probably hoping that she would interpret.
Kris asked Mrs. Dehlvi to follow him through the shop so that he could show her all of the progress he had made in the storage room, where he had sorted the many stacks of new arrivals into categories. He took her by the arm and led her down the hallway, also pointing out recent changes in the rooms along the way to the back of the store.
Mrs. O’Malley sat back down at the computer to order a copy of the reference book. Buglit lounged with her stomach flat on the wooden counter. Her head followed the jerky flight of a late-season wasp that had been buzzing all over the front room for the past half-hour.
Suddenly, and without saying a word, Bijay jumped up and started running laps around the main room. He looked calm, without even a change to his facial expression. Dev just ignored him and kept on reading.
After his seventh loopy circle, Bijay flopped back down next his brother and Stomper, breathing hard. He scooted and scooted until his back was against the sofa cushion and then he again opened up his picture book about a baby duck that was stuck in the muck.
Dev looked up at Mrs. O’Malley with his large, dark eyes and offered an explanation: “He’s four. He can’t help it sometimes. He’s just gotta run.”
Mrs. O’Malley leaned forward alongside Buglit and put her elbows on the counter and her chin in her hands. With a smile and a wink to Dev, she said, “Oh, I see. Yes, I would imagine that when you’re four you sometimes just gotta run. Nice of him to do it so politely though – not roughing up the place or yelling. I know I couldn’t have done it any better myself!”