Back in the good old days, when cats actually worked for a living.
This is a fable retold by Marcia Brown. Basically the story boils down to a poor kid who moves to London and gets a job in the kitchen of the merchant. The cook treats him cruelly. He buys a cat. Then the merchant says, "Hey, servants, I'm sending a ship to a foreign country. Everybody pick something to trade." Dick goes, "I don't have anything except this cat," and they go, "Okay, we'll take the cat," and he goes, "No!" But they send it anyway. The people on the ship end up in Barbary, which apparently has a huge rodent problem and is unfamiliar with cats and spends a bajillion dollars on it and Dick becomes rich and eventually becomes the Lord Mayor of London. Whatever.
Weird. I don't even know what it's trying to say. The illustrations look like woodcuts, which is kind of cool. It's super wordy for young kids (actually, in general, really). It's a boring story with no real point to it, retold in a very authentic way, which means that it includes a bunch of words that nobody really cares about.