Student View
illustration of a boy with tears in his eyes looking at a picture of his missing cat
Dave Clegg
Missing

What will Linus find when he searches for his lost cat?

By Nora Raleigh Baskin | Art by Dave Clegg
From the September 2020 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will identify the problems and solutions in this realistic story about a young boy who loses his cat and an older neighbor who finds it. 

Lexile: 500L-600L, 600L-700L
Guided Reading Level: M
DRA Level: 22
Download and Print
Think and Read: Problem and Solution

As you read, think about the problems faced by Linus and Mr. Samson and how these problems are solved.

Linus stood at the front door of his house. The sun was going down. Somewhere out there, his cat Taxi was lost.

What if he was cold? Or hungry? Or scared? Taxi slept in bed with Linus every night, curled up by his feet or lying right on Linus’s head. What would Taxi do now? He had never been outside before. Ever. 

Somehow the latch on the front door had gotten loose. A spring breeze blew it wide open with a bang. Taxi got scared like he always did, but instead of bolting up the stairs and into Mom’s closet, he ran outside. 

“He’s a cat,” Dad said gently. “Cats are very smart. He’ll be back.”

Linus couldn’t keep the tears from stinging his eyes. Mom pulled him in for a hug. “Taxi will find his way back home.” 

It was too dark to go out and look for him. And now, because of COVID-19, they couldn’t even knock on doors and see if anyone had spotted Taxi.  

It felt like everything Linus cared about had been taken away. School was closed. Baseball season had ended before it even began. He couldn’t visit his best friend, Nick. No more Sunday morning breakfasts at Orem’s Diner. 

But losing Taxi was the worst, most horrible thing of all. 

Mom came into his room that night and sat at the end of his bed. “Listen, we’ll start tomorrow morning, early before anyone else is out,” she said. “We can put on our masks and tape posters up all around the neighborhood.”

Linus felt the tiniest bit of hope growing in his chest.

Linus stood at the front door of his house and willed his eyes to see as far as they could. The sun was going down and the trees threw shadows that looked like bars across the lawn. Up and down the street, one at a time, his neighbors started turning on their lights. Somewhere out there, his cat, Taxi, was lost.

What if he was cold? Or hungry? Or scared? Taxi slept in bed with Linus every night, curled up by his feet or lying right on Linus’s head. In the morning, as soon as the sun came up, Taxi would start licking Linus with his sandpaper tongue.

What would Taxi do now? He had never been outside before. Ever.

Somehow the latch on the front door had gotten loose, and the spring breeze blew it wide open with a bang. Outside, a garbage truck was backing up and beeping loudly, and a metal trash can fell over and clanked against the sidewalk. Taxi got scared like he always did, but instead of bolting up the stairs and into Mom’s closet, he ran outside.

“He’s a cat,” Dad said gently. “Cats are very smart. He’ll be back.”

Linus couldn’t help the tears from stinging his eyes. Mom drew him in for a hug. “Taxi will find his way back home.”

It was dark out, so even if they could walk around and knock on doors in the neighborhood, it was too late. But now, because of the lockdown, they couldn’t even do that. It already felt like everything he cared about had been taken away.

School was closed. Baseball season had ended before it ever began. He couldn’t visit his best friend, Nick. No movies. No Sky Zone. Their vacation to the Jersey Shore in July had been canceled. No Sunday morning breakfasts at Orem’s Diner.

But losing Taxi was the worst, most horrible feeling of all.

Mom came into his room that night and sat at the end of his bed. She rubbed the two lumps that were his feet under the covers. “Listen, tomorrow morning, early, before anyone else is out,” she said, “we can put on our masks and tape posters up all around the neighborhood.”

Linus felt the tiniest bit of hope growing in his chest.

A Loud Whining Sound 

A few blocks away, Mr. Samson sat at his window. There wasn’t much else for him to do. In fact, there wasn’t anything else for him to do. He was supposed to be with his daughter and her husband by now, in California. They were about to have their first baby, a girl.

His daughter sent him a computer so they could “visit” online. He took it out of the box and plugged it in. He followed all his daughter’s instructions, but he never could get the internet part to work. Finally, he just gave up.

“We still can talk on the phone, sweetie,” he told his daughter.

But really, what did he have to talk about anyway? Because of COVID-19, every day seemed the same.

He hung up the phone, walked back to his chair by the window, and sat down. The grass was coming back to life. He lifted the window and let the warm breeze blow in. But what was that loud whining sound?

Mr. Samson pushed himself up from his chair, leaned out onto the ledge, and looked down. Sitting there, gazing up at him, was a little cat.

A few blocks away, Mr. Samson sat at his window. There wasn’t much else for him to do. In fact, there wasn’t anything else for him to do. He was supposed to be in California with his daughter and her husband by now. They were about to have their first baby, a daughter, his first grandchild. But with the pandemic, he couldn’t go anywhere.

His daughter had sent him a computer so they could “visit” online. He took it out of the box and plugged it in. It made noises and lit up. There was a keyboard and little images and places to type things in. He followed all his daughter’s instructions, but he never could get the internet part to work. Finally, he just gave up.

“We still can talk on the phone, sweetie,” he told his daughter. But really, what did he have to talk about anyway?

He hung up the phone, walked back to his chair by the window, and sat down. The grass was coming back to life and the trees were unfurling little green offerings to the sky. He lifted the window and let the warm breeze blow in. But what was that loud whining sound? It wasn’t a crow. The chatter of a squirrel, perhaps?

Mr. Samson pushed himself up from his chair, leaned out onto the ledge, and looked down. Sitting there on the wet grass, gazing up at him, was a little lost cat.

Dave Clegg

Everything Seemed Strange

By 8 a.m., Linus and his mom had put up 25 posters all over the neighborhood. LOST CAT they said. They had the most recent picture of Taxi. You could see the little furry beard he had under his chin. 

“Someone is sure to see Taxi,” his mother said. “Then they’ll see this poster and call our number.”

Linus was not so sure. Besides, everything seemed so strange. Normally the street would have been crowded with people. 

Now, even the playground at the corner was empty. The swings rocked back and forth in the wind. The swings looked lonely too. 

Later, his mom’s phone rang twice while Linus was sitting in the dining room. That’s where he did his schoolwork now. Each time, he sprang up to see who it was. Neither call was from someone who had found Taxi.

By 8 a.m., Linus and his mom had put up 25 posters all over the neighborhood. They had the most recent picture of Taxi, one that showed his face up close. You could see his coloring and the little furry beard he had under his chin.

LOST CAT.

“Now,” his mother said, “someone is sure to see Taxi, see this poster, and call our number.”

Linus was not so sure. Besides, everything seemed so strange. Their street would normally have been crowded with people, kids going to school, moms and dads going to work.

The playground at the corner was empty. The swings rocked back and forth in the wind like they were lonely too.

That morning his mom’s cell phone rang twice while Linus was sitting at the dining room table for his online fifth-grade school day. Each time he sprang up to see who it was; both times he fell. Once getting his feet tangled in his chair, the second time tripping on the rug.

Neither call was from someone who had found Taxi. 

Mr. Beard

The cat outside Mr. Samson’s window was wearing a collar, but the tag was missing. He must be hungry, Mr. Samson thought. He found a can of tuna and forked some onto a saucer. He hoped the cat wouldn’t be gone by the time he got outside. When he opened his door to the side alley, the cat was still there, as if he were waiting for him.

Mr. Samson walked slowly so he wouldn’t scare the cat. The cat walked right over and rubbed against Mr. Samson’s leg. 

“Here you go, little kitty,” Mr. Samson said, laying the dish of food on the grass. The warm sun felt good on his face. Mr. Samson hadn’t been outside for weeks. Not really. Just to step out and get the mail, maybe wave across the street to a neighbor or two. His groceries were being delivered. He didn’t even go to Orem’s Diner for Sunday breakfast anymore. 

But now out here in the sun, with the birds singing, Mr. Samson’s heart cracked wide open. He missed his daughter. He was going to miss seeing his granddaughter’s face when she came into this beautiful world. 

The cat had finished eating. When Mr. Samson reached down to pick up the plate, a little wet nose nuzzled against his face.  

“I bet you miss your family, don’t you?” Mr. Samson said. He stroked the bit of fur that grew under the cat’s chin. “I think I’m going to call you Mr. Beard.”  

Mr. Samson couldn’t help smiling when the cat suddenly flopped down and asked for a belly rub. 

“I miss my family too,” Mr. Samson said quietly.

Then someone down the street was hollering “Taxi! Hey, Taxi!,” which made no sense. There weren’t any taxis in this neighborhood. Mr. Samson stood up and looked around the corner. That’s when he saw the poster taped to a telephone pole.

LOST CAT it said. The photo on it showed a cat that looked very familiar. 

It was Mr. Beard. 

The cat outside Mr. Samson’s window was still there the next morning. He looked too sweet to be a stray. He must be hungry, Mr. Samson thought. He went to his cabinet, found a can of tuna, and forked some onto a saucer. He hoped the cat wouldn’t be gone by the time he got outside. When he opened his door to the side alley, the cat was still there, as if he were waiting for him.

Mr. Samson walked slowly so he wouldn’t scare the cat, but the critter walked right over, rubbed himself against Mr. Samson’s leg, and started purring loudly.

“Here you go, little kitty,” Mr. Samson said, setting the dish of food on the grass. The warm sun felt good on his face. Mr. Samson hadn’t been outside for weeks. Not really. Just to walk to the corner and get the mail, maybe wave across the street to a neighbor or two. His groceries were delivered. He didn’t even go to Orem’s Diner for Sunday breakfast anymore.

But now out here, where the robins were cheerfully bouncing everywhere and this little lost cat was licking the last bit of tuna from the plate, Mr. Samson’s heart cracked wide open. He missed his daughter and now he was going to miss seeing his granddaughter’s face when she came into this beautiful world. 

The cat had finished eating and was weaving in and out between Mr. Samson’s feet. When Mr. Samson reached down to pick up the plate, a little wet nose nuzzled against his face and the purring sounded like a car engine. 

“I bet you miss your family, don’t you?” Mr. Samson said. He stroked the little tuft of hair that grew under the cat’s chin. “I think I’m going to call you Mr. Beard.” 

Mr. Samson couldn’t help but smile when the cat suddenly flopped down and asked for a belly rub.

“I miss my family too,” Mr. Samson said quietly.

Then someone down the street was hollering for a taxi, which made no sense. There weren’t any taxis in this neighborhood. Mr. Samson stood up and took a peek around the corner. That’s when he saw the poster taped to a telephone pole.

LOST CAT, it said. 

It was Mr. Beard.

Dave Clegg

One Very Special Cat

Two days later, Linus and his mom and dad were crowded together at the dining room table. The three of them were peering at the computer screen. Three blocks away, Mr. Samson’s computer was up and running. And 3,000 miles away, Mr. Samson’s daughter was holding her new baby up to her computer. And they were there all together. At the very same time. 

“She’s so cute,” Linus’s mom said.

Mr. Samson’s daughter leaned in to her screen. “I cannot ever thank you enough for helping my dad with his computer.”

“We didn’t really do anything,” Linus’s dad told her. “All it took was a call to the cable company.”

“I’m so glad we can all be together,” Linus’s mom said. 

“It was all because of Taxi,” Linus chimed in. 

Mr. Samson said, “Yes, that’s one very special cat.”

Taxi was curled up asleep in Linus’s arms. At the sound of his name, he lifted his head. His ears twitched, and if a cat could smile, Taxi did.

Ten minutes later, Taxi felt himself being swooped up into Linus’s arms. Usually, a squeeze this tight would make him squirm, but not now. Now, he was happy to just be held and listen to the world going on around him. There was a lot of talking and calling out from the sidewalk to the alley where he had just eaten a delicious meal.

There were some words Taxi recognized: Computer. Help. Linus. Mom. Dad. Kitty. And some new words: Mr. Samson. Mr. Beard—that was a funny one.

And a couple he had always known: Home. Family.

Two days later, Linus and his mom and dad were crowded together at the dining room table, the three of them peering into the computer screen. Three blocks away, Mr. Samson’s computer was up and running. And 3,000 miles away, Mr. Samson’s daughter was holding her new baby up to her computer. And they were there all together. At the very same time.

“She’s so cute,” Linus’s mom said.

Mr. Samson’s daughter leaned in to her screen. “I cannot ever thank you enough for helping my dad with this,” she said.

“We didn’t really do anything,” Linus’s dad told her. “It was just a frayed cable line that had come unattached from the house. Probably a mouse or something chewed it. It happens all the time.”

“Well, whatever it was,” Mr. Samson’s daughter said, “if you hadn’t been there to see it, we wouldn’t be all together now.” The baby had fallen asleep in her arms, making a little cooing sound.

“And it was all because of Taxi,” Linus chimed in.

Taxi was asleep in his bed, curled up with his face nestled in his tail. At the sound of his name, he lifted his head. His ears twitched, and if a cat could smile, Taxi did. 

video (1)
Slideshows (1)
Audio ()
Activities (7)
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
video (1)
Slideshows (1)
Audio ()
Activities (7) Download All Quizzes and Activities
Quizzes (1)
Answer Key (1)
Can't Miss Teaching Extras
Teach This

KidsHealth offers some great tips for teaching students how to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and how to cope with spending extra time at home.

For Social-Emotional Learning

This story provides a perfect opportunity to discuss with students what their experiences have been like during the Covid-19 pandemic. As suggested in the Preparing to Read section, you might want to start off with a discussion of how people have helped each other in this time. After reading, invite students to write a letter to Linus, telling him about a problem that has come up because of the lockdown and how they managed the problem.

Share Your Story

If your students would like to record their own experiences during the pandemic, check out Scholastic Magazines’ My History page. It offers ideas for students to write, draw, make a video or photo collage, and other creative ways to memorialize this time. With a teacher’s, parent’s, or guardian’s permission, students can share their projects with us.

Meet the Author

Make sure students watch our “Author Visit” video, in which they’ll get to meet Nora Raleigh Baskin and hear her discuss what it’s like to be a writer and offer advice to kids about writing. 

More About the Article

Content-Area Connections

Social-Emotional Learning: self-management (stress management); relationship skills (social engagement, relationship building); responsible decision-making (identifying problems, analyzing situations, solving problems)

Key Skills

problem and solution, text features, vocabulary, setting, supporting details, key details, inference, character, plot, theme, making connections, narrative writing

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. PREPARING TO READ

Preview Text Features (10 minutes)

  • Ask students to look at pages 18 and 19. Direct their attention to the title, subtitle, and illustration. What is happening in the illustration? How do you think the boy, Linus, is feeling? Why do you think that? 

  • Invite students to make predictions that answer the question in the subtitle, “What will Linus find when he searches for his lost cat?” Have them revisit their predictions after they finish the story. (Alternate idea: If students are participating remotely, ask them to write or draw their prediction on a sheet of paper then turn the paper facedown without sharing their guess. After reading the story, ask students to hold up their papers to the camera so everyone can see how accurate the predictions were.)

  • Direct students’ attention to the illustrations on pages 21 and 23 and ask what these pictures have in common with the one on pages 18-19. (The same cat appears in all three illustrations.)

Introduce Vocabulary (15 minutes)

  • We have highlighted in bold six words that may be challenging and defined them on the page. 

  • Preview these terms by projecting or distributing our Vocabulary Skill Builder (available in your Resources tab) and completing it as a class. You may also play our Vocabulary Slideshow, where images help students with comprehension.

    Highlighted words: bolting, gazing, sprang, nuzzled, hollering, peering

Set a Purpose for Reading (5 minutes)

  • Call on volunteers to read aloud the Think and Read and Think and Write boxes on pages 19 and 23. These prompts and the Skill Builders (available in your Resources tab) support the story’s featured skill, problem and solution. 

  • Remind students to look for clues as they read that help them identify the problems facing Linus and Mr. Samson and how they solve these problems.

2. CLOSE READING

Reading and Unpacking the Text

  • First Read: Read the story as a class or have students follow along as they listen to the Author Read-Aloud. A higher Lexile version is also available in your Resources tab.
  • Have students identify story details and vocabulary they don’t understand. Point out that two of the vocabulary words (gazing and peering) have very similar meanings. Use the Pause and Think Questions to check comprehension.
  • Second Read: Project, distribute, or assign the Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions (available in your Resources tab). Discuss them as a class, rereading sentences or passages as necessary.
  • Pair each student with a partner to discuss the Critical-Thinking Questions. Then ask pairs to share their answers with the class.

Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes) 

  1. Read the first section. When does the story take place (long ago, recently, in the future)? How can you tell? Hint: What big event is affecting Linus and everyone else around him? (setting) The story takes place in recent times, during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can tell because COVID-19 is mentioned in the story. Also Linus’s mother says that they’ll need to put on their masks when they go outside.

  2. Linus feels as if everything he “cared about had been taken away.” What is Linus sad about missing? (supporting details) Linus is sad about not going to school, playing baseball, seeing his friend Nick, or eating at Orem’s Diner, and about losing Taxi.

  3. What problem is Linus having? What solution does his mother suggest? (problem and solution) Linus’s problem is that Taxi ran out of the house and is missing. His mother suggests they put up posters around the neighborhood. 

  4. Read “A Loud Whining Sound.” How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Mr. Samson? (key details) Because of the pandemic, Mr. Samson isn’t able to travel to visit his daughter and her husband and to meet his soon-to-be-born granddaughter. He feels like all days seem the same.

  5. In “Everything Seemed Strange,” Linus thinks that “the swings looked lonely too.” What does this tell you about how Linus is feeling? (inference/character) Linus is feeling lonely. When he looks at the rocking, empty swings, he imagines that they are experiencing the same feeling he is.

  6. Read “One Very Special Cat.” This section begins with the phrase “two days later.” What can you guess has happened in the two days since Mr. Samson saw the LOST CAT poster? (inference) You can guess that during those two days, Mr. Samson returned Taxi to Linus; Mr. Samson’s internet problem was fixed; Mr. Samson’s granddaughter was born; and Mr. Samson and Linus and his family became friends.

  7. Look at the illustration on pages 18-19 and the one on page 23. How are these pictures alike? How are they different? (text features/compare and contrast) Both pictures show Linus and his cat, Taxi. In the first illustration, Linus is sad, which you can tell because of the tears in his eyes. He’s holding a photograph of his missing cat. The photo on page 23 shows Linus looking content as he holds the real-life Taxi, who has been found. The first picture shows one of Linus’s parent’s arms, but the other picture shows both parents—as well as Mr. Samson and Mr. Samson’s daughter and granddaughter on the computer. Everyone looks happy.

  8. How do Linus and his family and Mr. Samson help one another solve their problems? (problem and solution) Mr. Samson helps Linus solve his problem by finding Taxi. Linus and his family help Mr. Samson solve his computer problem by calling the cable company. This also helps Mr. Samson get to see his daughter and meet his granddaughter in an online video call. Both Linus and Mr. Samson have also become friends, which probably helps them feel less lonely and sad.

Critical-Thinking Question (10 minutes)

  1. Why is “Missing” a good title for this story? (text features/theme) “Missing” is a good title because the word is used two different ways in the story. Linus’s cat Taxi runs off and is missing. Also, Linus and Mr. Samson are missing people and places they aren’t able to visit and things they aren’t able to do because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Linus misses seeing his friend Nick, playing baseball, and going to Orem’s Diner. Mr. Samson also misses going to Orem’s Diner. Even more, he misses seeing his daughter and is missing out on meeting his granddaughter in person. They both are missing their old lives before the pandemic.
  2. Linus and Mr. Samson have helped each other feel better by the end of the story. Has there been a time that you and another person helped each other in a similar way? Describe your experience. (making connections) Answers will vary.

3. SKILL AND KNOWLEDGE BUILDING

Featured Skill: Problem and Solution

  • Distribute the Problem and Solution Skill Builder (available in your Resources tab) and have students complete it in class or for homework.  

  • Ask students to write a response to the prompt in the Think and Write box on page 23.

GREAT IDEAS FOR REMOTE LEARNING

  • Have students listen to the Author Read-Aloud with Nora Raleigh Baskin. Or gather the class or a small group in your virtual classroom and read the story aloud to them yourself. It will be a comforting way for students to get to know you.

  • Schedule one-on-one video conferences with students and use the story as a springboard for discussion. You can discuss the close-reading or critical-thinking questions, or open a conversation about what the student’s experience has been like during the pandemic.

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

To help struggling readers with making inferences, play the audio of the story as students follow along in their magazines. Pause at the end of each section to discuss what happened, and together write a one- or two-sentence summary.

For ELL Students

Point out that all the vocabulary words in the story are action words (bolting, gazing, sprang, nuzzled, hollering, peering). Help reinforce the words’ meanings by having students act them out. On the blackboard or a big sheet of paper to share over video chat, write each word, its present tense form (bolt, gaze, spring, nuzzle, holler, peer), and definition and review this information with your students. Write each word on an index card and turn the cards facedown. Have students take turns choosing a card and acting out the word on it while their classmates guess which one it is. Alternatively, have students act out the words as a group or in pairs. Remote tip: Assign the vocabulary words to each student prior to the activity via your LMS, or allow students to choose which words they want to act out.

For Advanced Readers

Instruct students to write a journal entry from Mr. Samson’s perspective about the day he went outside to feed Taxi. Encourage them to use inferences and their imagination to include details of what happened after he saw the “Lost Cat” poster.

For School or at Home

Students may be missing friends or family members they haven’t been able to spend time with because of COVID-19. Ask students to think of someone they haven’t been able to be with lately and have them write that person a short letter letting them know what they miss most about spending time with them.