Goodbye Kitty

There are at least two problems with kids these days: (1) They don’t read enough. (2) They’ve got no respect for private-property rights. California first lady Sharon Davis, the wife of beloved Governor Gray Davis, aims to change all that with The Adventures of Capitol Kitty, her first foray into children’s literature.

Billed as “an almost true story,” Capitol Kitty is loosely based on the real-life adventures of a stray cat that has made the Capitol grounds her home for the past 10 years. Like a welfare mom, the real Capitol Kitty is dependent on handouts, which, judging from a photograph on the back cover, have not been unsubstantial. In a bit of inspired anthropomorphism, Davis casts the feral feline as a figurative fat cat that claims sole ownership of Capitol Park. When another cat impinges on Capitol Kitty’s turf, the fun begins.

Going by the handle of Scare D Cat, this second, brown-and-white critter cleverly represents today’s Eminem-entranced youth and their misguided sense of entitlement. Before Scare D came to the park, a gang of vicious alley cats had rightfully kicked the trespassing cat’s scrawny posterior, but Scare D still hadn’t gotten the message, leaving Capitol Kitty to teach it a harsh lesson in realpolitik.

“Capitol Kitty wanted to keep Capitol Park all to herself, but she didn’t want to act like those mean alley cats,” Davis writes. “How could she get rid of her unwelcome guest?”

No doubt, anyone who has ever entertained yours truly has posed a similar question. Capitol Kitty’s novel solution? Take Scare D on a tour of the Capitol building, where the extensive security forces guarding the legislators and the governor surely would frighten the freeloading feline from ever wandering onto Capitol Kitty’s turf again.

Most children’s book authors might be inclined at this juncture to rely on tired platitudes regarding the alleged virtues of representative democracy, but Davis harbors no such illusions. Upon entering the dome, Capitol Kitty and Scare D are immediately braced by a fearsome security guard, who in no uncertain terms demonstrates that the pair—and by implication, the young readers who are supposed to identify with them—are not wanted in these hallowed halls.

A terrifying chase through this veritable no-cat’s land ensues, illustrated with excruciating detail by Daniel San Souci. His depiction of the security guard’s angry face is frighteningly accurate, although I would quibble over his choice of a golden retriever rather than a German shepherd for the attack dog that joins in on the chase. When the two criminal cats wind up on the desk of Governor Davis—the only recognizable character in the book—you can’t help but think he is going to lock them up and throw away the key. But, unlike the moral degenerates languishing their lives away in our state prisons, the felonious felines escape the governor’s clutches and once again return to the park, where Capitol Kitty explains her whole sordid scheme to Scare D Cat.

“I thought you were different from the other cats,” Scare D complains afterward. “I thought you were special. Now, I see that you’re just as mean as the rest of them.”

As far as this cat is concerned, that would have been a perfect place to end the story. Yet, strangely enough, at this point, Davis imbues Capitol Kitty with something the character heretofore had been missing: a guilty conscience. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but to the author’s credit, Capitol Kitty overcomes this last remaining obstacle with a bit of chicanery that would make even Bill Clinton blush. It’s a moral that won’t be lost on today’s youth, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying Sharon Davis is one of the bright new lights in children’s literature.