A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Book Review: Rhubarb (1946)

Cat Classics in Print

Today, we’re pleased to bring you the first post in our new series, Cat Classics in Print. In this series, we’ll explore cat books from the past in many genres. We start with Rhubarb, written by H. Allen Smith (1907–1976) and first published in 1946. This tattered paperback has sat on our shelf for months (okay, a year—but we got to it eventually).

The plot

Rhubarb, by H. Allen Smith
I’m going to say up front that we read this book during the horrible cold snap we had in late December and early January, when old SoLT was dreaming hard about spring and summer and baseball. She really felt like reading about baseball games played on beautiful, sunny summer days, so we were a little disappointed to find that there really isn’t a lot of baseball in Rhubarb, despite the fact that it is about a cat who inherits a professional baseball team.

The book is mostly about Rhubarb and the crazy people around him (and there are a few!). The main person who is close to Rhubarb is Eric Yeager. He’s the press secretary for one Thaddeus Banner, owner of the New York Loons, a down-on-their-luck baseball team. It’s Eric who acquires the feisty yellow cat who is then named Rhubarb after a term for a brawl on a baseball diamond. Rhubarb is known to attack dogs, and he has a habit of “collecting” (i.e., stealing) tennis balls and golf balls. Banner loves him without reservation.

Which is a lot more than can be said for Myra, Banner’s daughter. Banner does not like her at all, and he does not intend to leave his money to her. But what to do with it? Well, Banner gets the funniest idea: He’ll leave everything to Rhubarb, with Yeager as the cat’s guardian. That will make Rhubarb the owner of the Loons. But don’t expect Myra to take that lying down, and when Banner dies and Rhubarb becomes suddenly famous as the cat that inherited a baseball team and a bunch of dough, she lawyers up and challenges the will in court.

Meanwhile, after some initial resistance to playing for a cat, the Loons adopt Rhubarb as a sort of good-luck charm, and they suddenly start winning. In fact, they seem headed to the World Series, with Rhubarb present at every game. And the public simply cannot get enough of this cat. Many of them are even intent on introducing their female cats to him, in hopes of getting a litter of kittens fathered by the wealthy feline. And then there is the, uh, unfortunate incident involving a certain intimacy between Rhubarb and a female cat—the incident that is broadcast live via radio to a large and rapt audience and gives the yellow tom a whole new reputation.

Truly, there are more twists in this plot than I could possibly mention in one short review.

Our verdict

Others have described Rhubarb as zany and bawdy, and it is both. We weren’t bothered by the bawdiness, but some readers might be, so heads up. There’s nothing explicit, but sex is frequently just on the periphery (or on the radio, as in the aforementioned unfortunate incident). We must also mention that this is a book very much of its time (the 1940s), and there is a certain amount of casual racism, sexism, and so on that we did find … oh, let’s call it annoying. Overall, though, we found Rhubarb to be a pretty good, and funny, read. We enjoyed Eric Yeager’s quick-wittedness (a person would have to be pretty sharp to deal with everything he gets drawn into, all because of a cat). We also enjoyed the nutty judge and the even nuttier psychiatrists who try to figure out whether Rhubarb is a normal cat.

We found plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in this book, but some of the humor also fell flat for us. This, we think, is a function of time: some things that were funny 70 years are simply less funny today. Honestly, we think the movie version has held up better over time than the book has … and the movie is more family friendly and has more baseball.

But we still think Rhubarb is worth a read, especially if you’re into fast-paced zaniness with some bawdiness on the side! There is a Kindle version available, and you can also find used copies for under $10.

One Paw up--A Good Read!

A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!

The link below is an Amazon Associates link. If you purchase the book through this link, old SoLT and I could get some coin for our kibble account. Thank you!


  1. It sounds like a fun book (other than the racism and sexism!), and I think the fact that it's so old and dated, that might make it more interesting!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

  2. It's always fun to come across a book that is an interesting read, even when it's old!

  3. I didn't even know Rhubarb was a book! (I am familiar with the movie though.) Love that you're doing a Classic series!

  4. Interesting. I thought maybe it would be a book I could recommend for Cat Scout Book Club, but sexism and racism doesn't play well there. I have found that same thing in books written in an earlier time. I do look forward to more of these reviews in the hope of finding book club reads. XOCK, angel Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, angel Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth, Calista Jo, Cooper Murphy and Sawyer

  5. This book defimitely sounds like it needs a good reading. I like older books where you can tell times have changed. Makes me imagine life in that time.

    Shoko and kali

  6. This sounds interesting, I had never heard of it.