A little gray kitten with a taste for adventure stows away on an airplane, and the daring stunt turns out to be his first step toward becoming … Space Cat! The plane's pilot, Captain Fred Stone, names his fuzzy new friend Flyball and welcomes him to an experimental station set up in the middle of the desert. Flyball enjoys supervising the station's workers and takes particular interest in the big rocket ship that he's not allowed to explore. Regardless of the rules, the kitty is determined to hitch another ride, and before you know it, Flyball's wearing a custom-made pressurized suit and headed for the Moon.
This new edition of a charmingly illustrated storybook from 1952 is the first of a four-book series starring the intrepid feline known as Space Cat. Young readers will delight in taking a look at space exploration from Flyball's point of view and following his escapades across the solar system.
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|Age Range:||6 - 10 Years|
About the Author
Scottish poet, novelist, and artist Ruthven Todd (1914–78) is best known as an editor of William Blake's works and an author of children's stories, including four Space Cat adventures. He also wrote detective fiction under the pseudonym R. T. Campbell.
Illustrator and writer Paul Galdone (1907–86) specialized in children's books. His illustrations for Eve Titus's books include the Basil of Baker Street series. Galdone and Titus were nominated for Caldecott Medals for Anatole (1957) and Anatole and the Cat (1958), titles that were named Caldecott Honor books in 1971. Galdone was posthumously awarded the 1996 Kerlan Award for his contributions to children's literature.
Read an Excerpt
The little gray kitten had always been the most adventurous member of his family. He had been the first to explore the roof of the apartment building where he lived with his brothers and sisters. There he had sat for hours admiring the face of the Cat in the Moon until his mother had dragged him in by the scruff of his neck. The next day he had managed to maroon himself on top of the flagpole on the roof and the Fire Department had had to be called to take him down.
Now, feeling most brave, he had escaped from the house and, after finding his way into an A&P store, he had eaten his fill of the tasty tidbits he had found on the floor of the meat and fish department. Some silly man had thrown him out and he was strolling along the sidewalk, waving his dark gray tail proudly, as he purred to himself:
Purr-rr-rr, I'm off to see the world,
After a while the kitten sat down on the curb, to digest his meal. A car drew up beside him and the door opened. A man started putting a number of bags in the car. The kitten hopped in among these. The door slammed shut and a lady's voice said, "Airport, please."
The car growled gently and the kitten arched his back in the little tunnel where he was hidden. Then he realized that the car would not hurt him and curled up in a ball.
After a long time the taxi stopped and the door opened. The kitten popped out. He started off on a small voyage of discovery and, in the middle of a field, saw a lot of airplanes. He crouched low and made his way through the grass and over the concrete toward one that was making a noise.
There was a stairway leading up to an open door. He went quickly up the stair and in through the door. There he found a long corridor lined with chairs and with a soft carpet on the floor.
The kitten curled up under one of the chairs and went to sleep. He was awakened when his resting place started to lurch and sway. This was no way to treat an honest adventurer. The kitten went back toward the door but found it had been shut.
A lady was walking down the passage between the seats, saying, "No smoking, please! Fasten your seat-belts, please!"
The kitten was careful not to get in her way. Then the floor tilted and he slid backward a few inches. He really began to get annoyed by this strange behavior of floors and comfortable places. He managed to pull himself into a reasonable position on the carpet and looked down under the seats.
As the badly behaved floor once again became level he spied a hand dangling down. He squirmed his way toward it and then, with his tail in the air, walked back and forth, rubbing against the hand. For a moment the owner of the hand paid no attention. Then the kitten saw a face, under a uniform cap with a dark peak, looking down at him. He was gently lifted up.
The lady came down the passage and the man who held the kitten said, "Here's Flyball. Someone seems to have lost him."
The kitten was delighted with the name which the man had given him and purred happily:
Purr-rr-rr, I'm off to see the world,
The lady held Flyball up so that everyone could see him.
"Does this kitten belong to anyone here?" she asked, in a disapproving voice that said it was against the rules of the airline for people to take kittens on flights.
"No!" said everyone.
"All right," the man in the blue uniform reached out his hand, "I'll take charge of the stowaway!"
At last the plane came down and Flyball and the man got out. They got into a car and Flyball sat in the front seat, seeing that the man drove properly. They went for a long way and then stopped at a gate where a man, also in a blue uniform, came forward and looked into the car.
Flyball's friend took out his wallet and opened it up and showed it to the man.
"Thank you, Captain Stone," the sergeant said. "I've got a message here for you."
He handed over an envelope and the Captain opened it. He whistled.
"Trouble as usual, Flyball," he said. "Well, we might as well get it over and see what the Colonel wants this time."
The Captain parked his car and, with Flyball tucked under his arm, went into a building. He spoke to several men and then was shown into a room where a stern-looking, gray-haired man sat behind a big desk.
"Late back from leave, Stone — as usual!" the man snapped. "Have you any excuse?"
"No, sir," said the Captain, twiddling one of Flyball's ears with his thumb.
"It really is ridiculous," the Colonel went on, "the way you treat this station as if it belonged to you. I'll admit that you're a good pilot, but you must remember that you're not the only good pilot in the country."
"Sorry, sir," said the Captain, solemnly.
The Colonel went on to tell Captain Stone exactly what he thought of his behavior. Flyball felt quite annoyed at the things which were being said about his new friend. For a couple of herringbones he would have gone across the floor and scratched the Colonel, but Captain Stone held him too firmly.
"All right, Stone, you can go now," the Colonel said at last, "but I warn you I won't put up with any more of this disregard for rules — either from you or anyone else!"
The Captain saluted and, with Flyball still tucked under his arm, left the room.
"Well, Flyball," he said, scratching him behind the ears, "you see the kind of guy you've found — always in trouble."CHAPTER 2
Flyball found himself in a new world where he always had as much to eat as he wanted, with no brothers or sisters to push him away from the plate. He was delighted by the way in which people went out of their way to please him. His short gray fur shone like the most expensive silk and his nose was always perfectly cool.
In no time at all, it seemed, Flyball had taken over command of the experimental station set in the middle of the desert. Even the Colonel, in spite of his rude remarks to Captain Stone, seemed to be willing to make way for Flyball when he went on one of his tours of inspection.
Flyball inspected the workshops where men behind masks held tools that blazed nearly as brightly as the sun. He inspected the cookhouse and looked with disdain on the huge piles of potatoes, for he could see no reason at all for eating such things, and he inspected all the offices where men sat at typewriters, filling in forms with many carbon copies. But there was one place that he could not inspect.
At the far edge of the camp, in the middle of a place surrounded by little concrete houses with no windows, there stood a large, pointed cylinder. Half-way up this there was a round port and though Flyball often climbed the steps which led to this, he never found it open.
Flyball was much annoyed by this. Here he was, boss of the station, and there was one place where he was not allowed to go. Naturally, this made him all the more anxious to see what was behind the port. So, one sunny day, he followed Captain Fred Stone up the steps.
Just as he was about to plop in through the port, however, Stone noticed him and grabbed him.
"This is no place for you, pal," he said. "One troublemaker around the station is enough — and that's my job!"
He laughed at Flyball's injured dignity and handed him to a sergeant who took him down to the ground.
Flyball put his head in the air, with his nose sticking up, and walked stiffly away, just to show them that he did not care if they wanted to keep their silly little secret. He knew all about the cylinder, anyway. It was a rocket.
He made for the kitchen where, in return for his approval, they were honored to allow him to sample the food before it was served to the officers and men. Flyball, on being offered a tidbit, would taste it gingerly and then, with his head on one side, consider carefully before eating the rest of it to show that it was all right.
Ground duty was fine for those that liked it, Flyball allowed, but it did not really suit a cat of his sort. He was an adventurer and even playing with the clumsy dogs around the station, letting them think they had him cornered until the last moment, was not exciting enough.
He wanted to get off the ground again. Captain Fred, he noticed, went up every day in a jet-plane and Flyball hung around until the day arrived when he was noticed.
"Gee," the Captain turned to his mechanic, "I believe he wants to go up with me. I'll catch it from old Stumpy," (this was the Colonel) "if he hears about it, but if you want to go riding, Flyball, I'll take you."
With this he scooped Flyball up in a gloved hand, and placed him beside him when he got into the tiny cockpit. Flyball purred as loudly as he could, but found that he could not compete with the noise made by the jets.
To begin with, the plane went slowly, and Flyball spent his time sorting himself into a comfortable position. It was just as well that he did this for when Captain Stone started to play with the little levers in front of him, poor Flyball found himself squashed backward so hard that he could hardly breathe.
When, after a short flight, they returned to the ground at the station, Flyball walked past the dogs with his tail in the air. They did not go for jaunts in jet-planes, poor grounded creatures.
Purr-rr-rr, Purr-rr-rr, I go up in a jet,
Sometimes there was an extra-special feeling of hustle and bustle and preparation around the station. Then, Flyball soon learned, smaller rockets, rather like the one he was forbidden to enter, shot up into the air with a most tremendous "Whoosh!" They left a long trail, first of flame and then of smoke, behind them. All the men went into the little concrete houses whenever one of the rockets was sent up, and Flyball went along with them.
The big rocket, the one into which Flyball was not allowed to go, never went "Whoosh!" and shot up into the air. It just stood on its tail while the men crawled around it. Flyball sat at a safe distance while the men worked with torches which sent out little streams of bright fire, just like the rockets, and with hammers which went "Whang! Whang!" as they beat on white-hot rivets.
The more Flyball saw of the huge rocket the more curious he became about what could possibly be hidden inside it. He examined the steps which led up to the port with great care. He noticed that, under the glare of the lights by which the men worked at nights, one side of the steps was always in dark shadow.
Once or twice, even though he knew that the port at the top was not open, Flyball romped up the steps in this darkness and then came down again. Nobody, he was pleased to see, had noticed his little excursions. He was Flyball, the most adventurous cat, and he would show them.
Captain Fred was late and Flyball lay in his basket feeling neglected. What right, he asked himself, had his favorite slave to leave him in this manner?
At that moment the Captain came into the room but, and this really was strange, he did not bend down and stroke Flyball as he usually did. Instead, he sat down in a chair and looked as though he was looking at nothing.
Flyball rose from his basket and, with great solemnity, walked over to the Captain. He had to rub, purring, against his leg several times before a hand came down and tickled him behind the ears. Even so, the hand did not seem to be as interested in his purr as usual.
"Miaow," said Flyball softly to show that he wanted more of his servant's attention.
"Hullo, old son," Captain Fred Stone picked him up and put him on his knee. "Sorry if I'm a bit off the beam — but tonight's the night!"
Flyball, who knew far more than the Captain supposed he did, at once realized that this had something to do with the big rocket in which Fred Stone spent so much time.
After a while the Captain got up so suddenly that Flyball slid to the ground. He sat there feeling astonished. Never before had the Captain let him down like that. There must, indeed, be something serious the matter. If there was, it was up to Flyball to straighten things out and see they went more smoothly in the future.
Flyball saw that there was nothing he could do at once to shake Captain Stone out of his unfamiliar mood, so he sat in silence while the Captain went to a closet and took out a most peculiar-looking suit. Captain Stone climbed into this suit and then pressed buttons hidden in various places. As he pressed these buttons there was a curious hissing sound and the suit blew up like a lot of balloons.
Finally the Captain took down from a shelf a large object like a goldfish globe, attached it to various tubes from a big knapsack on his back, and put it over his head. On to his hands the Captain drew thick gloves, connected with wires that ran down his sleeves.
Then he looked down at Flyball and spoke in a strangely thin voice, "Well, Flyball, old pal, I'll be seeing you."
He left the room and Flyball followed him on silent feet, padding gently along the corridors until they came to a large room where there were a lot of men in uniform gathered behind a big table. Some of these men had a great deal of golden stuff on their uniforms, much more than Captain Fred had, so Flyball disapproved of them.
The man with the most braid spoke, "You understand your orders, Captain? Good. Well, all I can do is wish you the best of luck and order you to stick to your instructions. No stunting or tricks!"
Inside his goldfish bowl the Captain tried to look as though he would never dream of playing tricks, and shook the hand the other held out. Then they left the room, with Flyball behind them.
Slowly they walked toward the big rocket and, at the bottom of the steps, stopped for a moment to say "Good luck" to Captain Stone. Flyball looked up and saw that the port was open. This was the chance for which he had been waiting. He went carefully round the group, wriggling along on his tummy, and found the dark side of the stairs. Then, while everyone's attention was centered on Captain Stone, he shot up the steps and in through the port.
The inside of the rocket was brightly lighted and the walls were lined with shining tubes of copper and chromium. There was an odd-looking chair, which seemed to be hung in the air so that it would turn in any direction, and, in front of this, there was a swinging panel covered with buttons and dials. Before Flyball had time to take a good look round, however, he heard the noise of footsteps on the metal stairs and hastily dived for cover behind an extra-specially fancy network of tubes.
The bulky figure of Captain Fred in his pressure-suit squeezed in through the opening and then, as he took his seat and started to strap himself into the strange seat, the port clanged shut.
Suddenly a loudspeaker on the wall started to speak.
"Thirty seconds," it said, "twenty-nine ... twenty-eight ... twenty-seven ... twenty-six ... twenty-five...."
Flyball arranged himself more comfortably in his nest of pipes.
"Five ...," said the voice, "four ... three ... two ... one ... ZERO!"
There was a tremendous noise and the rocket started to climb, quite slowly it seemed. At first, Flyball was comfortable, for it was no worse than the start of the ride in the jet-plane. But slowly, slowly, the pressure got stronger and stronger until he felt he was being pressed flat against the wall behind the pipes.
"Miaow," he said in a terribly soft and flat voice, but the Captain, shut in his goldfish globe and looking at the dials in front of him, heard nothing.
"Zee-Queue-Ex-One to Base," the Captain said suddenly, "all okay."
"All okay, Zee-Queue-Ex-One," replied the loudspeaker in the wall.
There was silence once more except for the roaring swoosh of the rocket. Flyball tried to complain again, but found that he was so flattened that he could not make any noise at all.
"Zee-Queue-Ex-One to Base," it was the Captain's strange voice once again, "all okay and ready to return."
"Zee-Queue-Ex-One all okay and ready to return," repeated the speaker.
The Captain reached out in front of him, moving with a slowness that was quite unlike his usual quickness. He pulled a lever and pushed a button. Slowly the pressure on Flyball eased and before he knew where he was he had flown across the little cabin and had collided with the Captain's back.
Fred Stone, thinking that some piece of the rocket had worked loose, looked down.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Space Cat"
Copyright © 1952 Ruthven Todd.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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