Book about Italian apprentice making fountain for stray cats.
June 17, 2014 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Ok, I could have sworn I read this book multiple times when I was a kid, but nobody seems to remember it exists including my cat-loving, children's literature professor mom who gave it to me. I'll try to list every thing I can remember about it in the extended explanation. To summarize, it takes place in an Italian town where a young-fountain-making apprentice wants to make his own fountain so that all the stray cats around him will have some place to drink. As he is poor, he cobbles together the material from things he can find, and in the end I do believe he ends up making the fountain. My mom and the internet don't seem to remember this book, but I think it did exist. Maybe you guys will come up with something.

In the no particular order, this is what I can and cannot remember:

I cannot remember if this book was originally written in Italian or not. At the very least, I know that I read it in English.

I don't remember if it took place in Rome or another Italian city. It was at least a city renowned for its fountains.

I believe (90% sure) this was at least light-novel length if not longer; it wasn't simply a short picture book. It may have had chapter pictures, but it was a novel, I'm almost positive.

The main character is a boy/teenager, who I think is an apprentice to a fountain builder. He befriends all the cats around and laments that there's no fountain in the nearby square for them to drink out of. No one is interested in building a fountain, so he decides to build one himself.

I remember the following very clearly. Since he's poor, he has to scrape together the materials from what he can find. He finds a little excess cement left over from other fountain projects. To decorate the fountains he uses broken bottle shards to add colorful embellishment to the fountain.

Believe it or not, that's all I can definitively remember after 20+ years. The fountain was for the cats, so "cat" might be in the title, but I'm just guessing there. It made the point about how big a deal the fountains in the city were, so I imagine the apprentice was laughed at or scorned for trying to build his own fountain with his experience and the bits and pieces he had available. His master might have said he could do it, but he's have to procure everything he needed for himself. This is all extremely hazy.

To summarize: Italy, cats, fountain made by young boy or teenager by himself for cats

I've been searching for years for this book, and it's too clear in my mind to think that I dreamed this. I hope you guys have some sort of lead. Thanks.
posted by KinoAndHermes to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Neptune Fountain? I don't think that's it but it sounds like it's on the right track.

What time frame are we talking about? I found one that was closer but published in 2011. So unless you are the youngest Mefite...
posted by Beti at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2014

There's this:

The Marble Fountain by Valenti Angelo

Another description here:

or this:

The Neptune fountain : the apprenticeship of a Renaissance sculptor
posted by girlpublisher at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2014

The Wild Cats of Rome?
posted by Shadow Boxer at 9:53 AM on June 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

That looks right, Shadow. The description, minimal though it is, sounds pretty accurate. The publication date matches up with when my mom would have been teaching in elementary schools and probably used this book. (My sister and I read a lot of 70s books as kids.) The fact that it's called The Wild Cats of Rome would absolutely mean my cat-loving mom would have bought it on sight. Also, the scarcity of the book from sellers would fall in line with the absolute strike out I've had over the years trying to find any information about it.

I can't find it at any nearby libraries, so I guess I'll have to order it and see if it's the book I was looking for. I'll post back here either way.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 3:01 PM on June 17, 2014

Ok, talked to Mom and ordered the book. She's convinced this is the right book. She recalls that the main character was an old man, not a young apprentice as I'd thought, which syncs even more with the book's description. Turns out we never actually owned the book, but she got it from the library when I was younger. She and I have been trying to figure out what this book was for at least a decade or more; I cannot think of a more nagging question that's remained with me over the years. Yay for regaining a lost piece of my childhood. Thanks a lot, Shadow.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 3:21 PM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Update the Second:

Received the book and finally took an hour to read it. It is 100%, without a doubt, the book I remember so fondly from my childhood. After reading it, it seems I remembered a few of the details wrong, mainly that the story is told from the perspective of a cat named Angelo and the fountain builder in an old man as my mom had confirmed.

It's a neat little book. Aside from the cleverness of the fountain builders, I also remembered correctly that it described both the immeasurable beauty of Rome but also the more down-to-earth life that exists behind all of that in the back streets. I liked that as a kid: Rome was both glistening and dusty. I still like it. It's a short book, but if you like cats or Rome or interesting children's stories, check it out if you can find it.

Thanks again, Shadow, and everyone who did their best to decipher my description. This made me incredibly happy and more than a little misty-eyed. You guys are the best.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 10:21 AM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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