By Author / Illustrator
Friends and family
Nosy Crow Ltd
Paperback / softback
A wise, funny and moving story of what it means to find a family, from the best-selling author of I, Cosmo. Leonard has never had a name. Or a body. Or a best friend. But he is excited to try being a human. On their three-hundredth-birthday, every alien from Leonard's home galaxy gets to spend a month in the body of an Earth Creature. Leonard was supposed to become a forest ranger in Yellowstone National Park - but there was a mix-up. And now he's stuck as a stray cat. Luckily for Leonard, he meets a young human called Olive - and together they set out on a journey to find home.
You don't have to love cats, or be mad keen on alien adventures like E.T., to enjoy My Life as a Cat. But it helps if you love life - or are open to its wonder. For, surely, there are surprises just around the corner and experiences to remember in every day?
That's what Leonard (the-cat-who-wasn't-meant-to-be-a-cat) learns from his time on Earth. He experiences what his pre-splashdown research into humans could never properly teach him: that life is lived best when you find the one you are at home with; when you have family and friends who accept you as you are; fellow travellers on the road, whether that road is smooth or rocky.
So, landing 2,000 miles off course and being rescued by Olive is, for Leonard, just the start of a journey of discovery; an exciting and perilous journey with oh so many beautiful moments (including penguins and picnics, raincoats and road trips), as well as times when the world (particularly Olive's peers and Frank, her mum's new boyfriend) seems cruel.
This story is one that will stay with young (8 years and over, mostly) readers long after the last page, just as Leonard will never forget the glorious feeling associated with being alive on Planet Earth that are so alien to his own species.
Read it alone, read it together in class, but read it you must! There are so many stand-out moments, but I particularly loved Q's reassuring heart-to-heart with Olive, the descriptions ('laughter is like the spike of a stingray'), the penguins bowing, the idea of a cat writing poetry, the picture of little turtles shuffling across the sand. So many small celebrations of life as we know it.
I hope this life-affirming book helps children of all ages realise what we have, what we can give and how we can live well together.
272 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Jane Rew, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+
What happens when an alien travels to Earth, expecting a month's mind-broadening experience as a ranger in Yellowstone National Park - but finds that he arrives over 1000 miles from his destination - as a cat? In this story, the alien has the luck to meet Olive. She's still young but resourceful and courageous. She rescues him from a storm, names him Leonard and together they learn about friendship and families. But will her ingenuity and determination be enough to help Leonard find a way home?
Olive is a strong female heroine who would appeal to many children in upper primary who are starting to become self-conscious. She's clever, kind and loyal - but full of self-doubt. She struggles to make friends and her mum's new boyfriend has told her she's weird. Nevertheless, by devoting her energy to helping Leonard, Olive gathers the confidence to trust herself and others. It's an optimistic, empowering message.
My Life as a Cat would work well as a class read. It rattles along fast enough to maintain momentum while raising some interesting questions about relationships and empathy. How can children negotiate with adults in their lives, especially if their parents find a new partner? Is it only when we start to forget ourselves that we come to terms with who we are? Does it matter if your best friend is an alien? And for those in the class who prefer non-fiction, Olive's vast interest in the natural world provides the context for a string of fun facts interleaved with the story.
Add it to the book corner or library as a change for the children who like reading animal stories. Although it's quirkier than the usual stories in this genre, it explores similar emotional territory. I've already lent my copy out!
272 pages / Ages 8+ / Reviewed by Louisa Farrow, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+