If you are looking for a lovely, un-sentimentalized, child's eye view of growing up, Ship's Cat Doris is the perfect book.
Doris is rescued from a cat breeder and finds himself in a bewildering — if largely gentler — world where everything is big and loud, many things are malevolent, and most things are confusing. At least at first. Even Doris's name is confusing. Having been assured by the cat breeder that Doris is female, the Bosun and Captain choose a girl's name. At first it's a source of ridicule, but then, even after the vet declares him a male (a fact that was never in doubt to Doris or the other family animals), everyone decides that the name fits.
The story follows Doris from his days as a tiny, terrified kitten to adulthood as a healthy and hefty tom cat. He grows up in body and mind, and we get to learn one of the cardinal lessons of life through his eyes. Doris learns that everyone has a story, a story that molds them and shapes their behavior. To find our place in life is to find out the stories of those we live with and love, to understand what makes them act the way they do, to understand that cruelty has roots that don't reflect on the current time at all.
For example, small dog Madge is caustic and mean. Doris at first thinks it's his fault. Later on, he learns that Madge was born into an abusive place much like the cat breeder farm. He instantly understands how her life has made her unable to trust and slow to show love. He instantly knows how to act around her and what to expect from her. Learning her story has shown him his own place.
Told in elegant, spare language with only the barest details filled in, Ship's Cat Doris has that feel of dreamlike memory that we all associate with childhood. It reminds adults and reassures children that childhood feels that way because children haven't yet filled in the details. Haven't learned all the stories yet. Doris shows us that learning can be scary, but it always opens up new and bigger worlds and shows you your place in it.