If you were learning to read in the early 20th century, you could do a lot worse than practicing on Eulalie Osgood Grover’s 1911 masterpiece of an early reader book, Kittens and Cats; a Book of Tales, which we spotted on the Public Domain Review. Long before lolcats or Instagram-famous felines, Grover’s teaching tool imagined what cats would say if they could talk. And boy, do they have things to say. In one chapter, a cat muses about how hard it is to drink out of china cups. In another, a cat wonders who that cat he saw in the mirror was. The first chapter’s narrator proclaims “I am the Queen of all the Kittens. I am the Queen! the Queen!” (Show me a cat who doesn’t think that.)
The chapters, usually just a page or so long, are all accompanied by photographs of cats and kittens dressed up in silly hats and frilly outfits and labeled with captions related to the story, like “I am taking a bath,” “I am Granny Gray,” and “I am the queen!”
According to the Public Domain Review, the photographs were likely the work of pioneering animal photographer Harry Whittier Frees, who insisted that his carefully posed portraits were the result of human handling, not taxidermy. Given how crisply his early-20th-century camera shutter managed to capture piles of kittens, the claim seems suspicious. But please dwell on how amazing these little stories and portraits are and not the stuffing that might be hiding behind these cute kitties’ glassy eyes. Go ahead and enjoy a few of the most delightful spreads below.
Not sure why every elementary school on earth isn't teaching their students to read with this book.
[h/t Public Domain Review]