Strange Happenings: Five Tales of Transformation [NOOK Book]

Overview

Children become cats and birds, a once-invisible young woman pieces herself back together, and the identity of a mysterious baseball mascot is uncovered—all within this eclectic collection from master storyteller Avi. By turns chilling, ethereal, and surreal, these thought-provoking tales are sure to engage anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to become someone—or something—else.
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Strange Happenings: Five Tales of Transformation

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Overview

Children become cats and birds, a once-invisible young woman pieces herself back together, and the identity of a mysterious baseball mascot is uncovered—all within this eclectic collection from master storyteller Avi. By turns chilling, ethereal, and surreal, these thought-provoking tales are sure to engage anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to become someone—or something—else.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
In this collection, Newbery award-winner Avi tells five stories of the supernatural, all involving a transformation of some kind, incorporating many elements from traditional literature, and even exploring some of the seven deadly sins—sloth, avarice, and pride. "Bored Tom" is about unwise wishes and trickery in order to transfer an onerous burden (remember Atlas, and the ferryman in "The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs"?). "Babette the Beautiful" is the least successful, with its many undigested bits of folklore, its reference to Andersen's "Emperor's New Clothes," and an unappealing heroine who is neither deserving nor undeserving. "Curious" is not so much about curiosity as it is a horror story with undertones of "The Tailypo" for kids who like to scare each other at camp or sleepovers. The most effective and eerie story, "The Shoemaker and Old Scratch," tells of unkept bargains, especially the age-old ones with the devil (in this case, a wily shape-shifter); throughout literature some protagonists can outwit him (the soldier in the folktale "Bearskin"), but others cannot. The final tale, "Simon," deals with pride and, as with the biblical Prodigal Son, humiliation and degradation. This son's redemption comes, not from his father, but through a golden bird reminiscent of the magical Firebird, who allows Simon to make the mythical sacrifice leading to death, resurrection, and transcendence (Jesus and Goethe's characterization of Faust). These eclectic stories will probably resonate most strongly with middle readers who have already experienced some of the traditional genres in their previous reading. 2006, Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12.
—Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-These stories vary in tone from grimly humorous to quietly ironic to stately formal. In "The Shoemaker and Old Scratch," a tightfisted tradesman tries to outwit the Devil, but discovers too late that Satan has many guises. In "Bored Tom," a boy wants excitement, so when a talking cat offers to switch places, he agrees-but then the cat refuses to switch back. "Curious" combines sports and science fiction. Jeff wants to know more about the Alien, the mascot for the local baseball team-particularly since no one seems to like it or to know how it was employed in the first place. "Babette the Beautiful" and "Simon" incorporate folkloric elements. After her queen mother asked a wise woman for a flawless baby, Babette is born invisible. Mirrors are banished from the land, and no one will admit that the princess can't be seen. Greedy, selfish Simon hunts the fabulous Queen-of-All-the-Birds and finds himself changed into a half-bird monster until he learns compassion. These stories don't have conventional "happy endings," but the conclusions fit the individual styles-sly, mystical, or gruesome, as appropriate. Fantasy fans with a taste for the unusual will enjoy this challenging collection.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Strange, indeed-these tales are actually startling. Avi continues to surprise by adding new styles, genres and topics to his storehouse of writing, rarely repeating himself. The lead story, "Bored Tom," sets the tenor when a bored boy trades places with a cat because he wants to sleep a lot. "Babette the Beautiful" transmogrifies familiar fairytale elements into a story of a princess who is picture perfect but can't see herself in a mirror. Booktalk the middle story, "Curious," and kids will be hooked. Jeff Marley is most curious about the baseball team mascot called "The Alien," but trying to find out his identity leads him to a point of no return. "The Shoemaker and Old Scratch" pits a greedy shoemaker against the Devil in a bargain of souls versus soles. The titular character in "Simon" is so vain, his goal in life is to have the world gaze upon him with admiration and envy. His solipsism turns him into a birdbrain-that is, a man with a bird's head. The mix of contemporary and fantasy settings is effective and eerie enough to produce a shiver or two. (Short stories. 8-12)
From the Publisher
“Fantasy fans with a taste for the unusual will enjoy this challenging collection.”—School Library Journal
“Spooky fun.”—The Bulletin
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547545394
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 455,943
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • File size: 693 KB

Meet the Author

Avi
AVI has written many acclaimed novels for middle grade and teen readers, including his Newbery Medal-winning Crispin: The Cross of Lead and his two Newbery Honor books, Nothing But the Truth: A Documentary Novel and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

Biography

Born in Manhattan in 1937, Avi Wortis grew up in Brooklyn in a family of artists and writers. Despite his bright and inquisitive nature, he did poorly in school. After several academic failures, he was diagnosed with a writing impairment called dysgraphia which caused him to reverse letters and misspell words. The few writing and spelling skills he possessed he had gleaned from his favorite hobby, reading -- a pursuit enthusiastically encouraged in his household.

Following junior high school, Avi was assigned to a wonderful tutor whose taught him basic skills and encouraged in him a real desire to write. "Perhaps it was stubbornness," he recalled in an essay appearing on the Educational Paperback Association's website, "but from that time forward I wanted to write in some way, some form. It was the one thing everybody said I could not do."

Avi finally learned to write, and well! He attended Antioch University, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and received a master's degree in library science from Columbia in 1964. He worked as a librarian for the New York Public Library's theater collection and for Trenton State College, and taught college courses in children's literature, while continuing to write -- mostly plays -- on the side. In the 1970s, with two sons of his own, he began to craft stories for children. "[My] two boys loved to hear stories," he recalled. "We played a game in which they would give me a subject ('a glass of water') and I would have to make up the story right then. Out of that game came my first children's book, Things That Sometimes Happen." A collection of "Very Short Stories for Little Listeners," Avi's winning debut received very positive reviews. "Sounding very much like the stories that children would make up themselves," raved Kirkus Reviews, "these are daffy and nonsensical, starting and ending in odd places and going sort of nowhere in the middle. The result, however, is inevitably a sly grin."

Avi has gone on to write dozens of books for kids of all ages. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and Nothing but the Truth (1992) were named Newbery Honor Books, and in 2003, he won the prestigious Newbery Medal for his 14th-century adventure tale, Crispin: The Cross of Lead. His books range from mysteries and adventure stories to historical novels and coming-of-age tales; and although there is often a strong moral core to his work, he leavens his message with appealing warmth and humor. Perhaps his philosophy is summed up best in this quote from his author profile on Scholastic's website: "I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read."

Good To Know

In a Q&A with his publisher, Avi named Robert Louis Stevenson as one of his greatest inspirations, noting that "he epitomizes a kind of storytelling that I dearly love and still read because it is true, it has validity, and beyond all, it is an adventure."

When he's not writing, Avi enjoys photography as one of his favorite hobbies.

Avi got his unique nickname from his twin sister, Emily..

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    1. Also Known As:
      Avi Wortis (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 23, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Bored Tom
At the age of twelve, Thomas Osborn Pitz­hugh—better known as Tom—had few interests, ­little desire, and almost no energy. This was so despite a family—mother, father, older brother, and sister—that loved him. As for school, his teachers treated him fairly; he did what he was supposed to do and received passable grades. But if you were to ask Tom what the future held for him, he would have replied that, other than getting older, and hopefully taller, he expected no change. In short, Thomas Osborn Pitzhugh—better known as Tom—found life boring.
     One day Tom was sitting on the front steps of his city house doing what he usually did: nothing. As he sat there a short-haired, black-and-gray cat with gray eyes approached and sat down in front of him. For a while the two—boy and cat—stared at each other.
     The cat spoke first. “What’s happening?” he asked.
     “Not much,” Tom replied.
     “Doing anything?” the cat asked.
     “Nope.”
     “Just hanging out?”
     “I guess.”
     “That something you do often?”
     “Yeah.”
     “How come?” the cat inquired.
     “I’m bored.”
     The cat considered this remark and then said, “You look like my kind of friend. How about adopting me?”
     “Why should I?”
     “Got anything better to do?”
     “I don’t know.”
     “Well then?”tyle="mso-tab-count: 1"     Tom asked, “What’s your name?”
     “Charley.”
     “Okay.”
     It was not long before Charley the cat became part of Tom’s household. So familiar did he become that when Tom went to sleep, Charley slept next to his head on an extra pillow.
     For a brief time, Tom—having a new friend—was almost not bored. After a while, however, his life settled back into its old, boring routine.
     “Hey, man,” Tom said to Charley one afternoon two months after the cat had moved in. “It’s not fair! You get to sleep all day, but I have to go to school.” Disgusted, he flung his schoolbooks onto his bed.
     It was the statement more than the thump of books that awoke Charley from a sound nap. He studied Tom, and then stretched his back to curve like a McDonald’s arch. “I am a cat,” he said. “You are a boy. Some would say you had it better.”
     Tom sighed. “If you had to go to school every day like I do, you wouldn’t say that.”
     “Don’t you like school?” Charley asked.
     “Oh, I like it all right,” Tom replied. “The kids are okay. The teachers are all right. Once in a while it almost gets interesting. Mostly, though, it’s just boring. I’d rather do nothing. Like you.”
     “What about after school?”
     “Boring,” Tom insisted.
     “Doesn’t anything interest you?”
     Tom considered the question. “Television,” he said at last. “On TV there’s something happening. It’s my life that’s dull.”
     “A cat’s life,” said Charley, “can be dull, too.”
     “Your life is supposed to be dull,” Tom said. “See, people are always telling me that I should get up and do something. Boy, wish I had permission to sleep all day the way you do.”
     To which Charley said, “How about you becoming me, a cat, while I become you, a boy?”
     Tom sighed with regret. “Not possible,” he said.
     “Don’t be so sure,” said Charley. “Most people wouldn’t believe that you and I could hold a conversation, but here we are doing just that.”
     “Actually,” said Tom, “it’s not that interesting a conversation.”
     “Whatever you say,” Charley replied as he curled himself into a ball, closed his eyes, and went back to sleep. Tom did pretty much the same: He watched television.
     The next day Tom, as usual, went to school. In most ways school was ordinary. Although Mr. Oliver called upon him once and Tom gave a reasonable response, he never raised his hand. Most of the time he doodled, stared out the window, or daydreamed, but about what he could not have said.
     At the end of that day, Mr. Oliver announced a special homework assignment. He asked each student to write an essay titled “The Most Exciting Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” It was due in one week’s time.
     Tom was worried. He could not think of anything in his life that had been exciting. He did remember a family trip when they’d had a flat tire on the highway. That was not so much exciting as it was nerve-racking.
     Then there was the time he was taken to a baseball game, but no one even got a hit until the bottom of the ninth inning.
     Tom also recalled the time his mother had thought she might lose her job. That was scary, not exciting.
     “You ever do anything exciting in your life?” Tom asked Charley when he got home.
     Charley, who, as usual, had been sleeping on Tom’s bed, stretched, yawned, and said, “As a cat?”
     “Of course as a cat.”
     Charley said, “I caught a mouse once.”
     “Was that exciting?”
     “It was just a small mouse. My first ever.”
     “What did you do with it?”
     “Let it go.”
     “Anything else?”
     “Since I’ve moved in here, I’ve caught a whiff of another cat passing through your backyard. I believe it’s a cat of my acquaintance—her name is Maggie. She’s in search of a home of her own.”
     “Is that exciting?”
     “For a cat it can be hard,” said Charley. “Why all these questions?”
     Tom told Charley about the essay he had to write. “But,” he complained, “nothing exciting has ever happened to me.”
     Charley thought for a while. “Tom,” he said after a while, “do you remember what I told you—that you could become me and I could become you?”
     “Yeah.”
     “You might find that exciting.”
     Tom smiled. “Sleeping all day with no one objecting sounds cool to me. Could it be done?”
     “We can give it a shot,” said Charley. “A few blocks from here there’s a neighborhood wizard-cat. It’s that Maggie I just mentioned. We could ask her.”
     “Just remember,” Tom warned, “if we make the change, you’ll have to write that essay. It’s due next week.”
     “I know. And you’ll get to sleep all day.”
     “Sounds good to me,” Tom said. “Anyway, we could do it just long enough for you to write my essay.”
     Charley, ignoring that remark, said, “Let’s make the change now.”
     “Now?” said Tom. He was not given to making quick decisions.
     “Any reason not to?”
     “Maybe my parents—”
     “I’ll handle them.”
     With Charlie leading the way, they left imme­diately.
     It was dusk. A thin haze filled the air. Streetlamps began to flicker on. As it grew darker, people ­hur­ried to get home. Soon the streets were quite ­de­serted. Tom was glad Charley knew the way.
     They went two blocks to the right, one to the left, and then walked through a back alley Tom had never wanted to walk through. Finally they cut through a weed-and-bedspring-infested yard and approached what looked to Tom to be an abandoned building. Its windows were boarded. Tom hoped they would not be going there. But Charley, without a pause, padded into the building’s basement and down a long empty corridor.
     Tom, feeling nervous, said, “Do we have far to go?”
     “Not too long,” said Charley as he headed up a rickety flight of steps.
     They reached the first floor. When Tom’s eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, he realized that the building was full of cats. Some were sleeping. Others sat with tails curled about their feet, staring into the distance. A few prowled restlessly. Charley nodded—as if they were acquaintances.
     With Charley leading the way, Tom entered a long, dimly lit hallway. Green paint peeled from the walls. The ceiling looked like it might collapse any moment. There were more cats. Some glanced at Tom, but most paid no attention.
     At the end of the hallway was a door. In front of this door sat a large cat, the largest cat Tom had ever seen. He looked like a miniature tiger.
     Charley approached this large cat with great respect. For a few moments the two cats stared at each other, their tails moving restlessly.
     “What can we do for you?” said the large cat.
     “A transformation,” Charley said.
     Tom saw the large cat’s eyes shift to him, then turn back to Charley. “What’s the reason?” the large cat asked.
     “He’s bored,” Charley said. “And he has to write a school essay, ‘The Most Exciting Thing That Ever Happened to Me.’”
     “Ah! One of those,” the large cat said as if he had heard it before. “You can enter.”
     “Watch your head,” Charley cautioned Tom.
     Tom was just about to ask Charley if this kind of transformation was common, when they stepped into a small, dim room. The floor was so carpeted with cats, it was hard to move about. Some cats were big, others small. Some were perched on ledges. Others sat on shelves like books in a library. The whole room throbbed with such a steady purring, it was as if one low note on a bass guitar were being continually thrummed.
     No matter where the cats sat or lay, all eyes were fixed upon a raised platform at the far end of the room. The platform was dimly lit by dusty light that drifted through a broken piece of window boarding.
     On the platform, on a purple pillow, a gray cat lay stretched out, one cheek resting on an extended front paw. Her long fur made it appear as if she were dressed in silk lounging pajamas. Her eyes were closed to narrow slits. Now and again the tip of her tail shivered delicately.
     “Who’s that?” Tom asked Charley.
     “Maggie,” Charley whispered. “The local wizard-cat. Most neighborhoods have them. On the street she leads a normal life. Here, she’s a wizard. Stay close and don’t say anything unless you’re asked a direct question.”
     Charley padded his way to the platform. Once there he lay down and tucked his front paws under his chest. “Kneel,” he whispered.
     Tom knelt.
     “Now, be patient.”
     Tom, curious how a cat could have become a wizard, gazed at Maggie.
     The gray cat finally looked up. “What’s happening?” she asked. Her voice was small, delicate.
     “Maggie,” said Charley, “we’re requesting a transformation. This boy—his name is Tom—and myself.”
     “Wants to be a regular tomcat, I suppose,” Maggie said. Her silky sides heaved slightly as she enjoyed her joke.
     “Actually,” Charley explained, “he’s bored. Wants to sleep all day, the way I do.”
     “Lucky you,” Maggie murmured to Charley. With a sidelong glance at Tom, she asked, “Do you really want to sleep all day?”
     It took a moment for Tom to realize he had been asked a question. “Absolutely,” he replied. “I love to sleep.”
     Maggie sighed. “I’d settle for a decent home off the streets.”
     “I’ve got that,” Tom said.
     “Whatever,” Maggie mumbled. Then she said, “Bow down. You need to have your heads close ­together.”
     Tom and Charley put their heads side by side.
     Tom was not sure what happened next. He sensed that Maggie’s tail curled around and batted him on the forehead. He supposed the same thing had happened to Charley.
     The next moment he heard Maggie say, “Charley, enjoy that home of yours.”
     “Let’s go,” said Charley. Tom turned and sensed the room had grown much larger. What’s more, he was staring—nose to nose—into the face of a large calico cat with curled whiskers. “Beg pardon,” said Tom, as he sidestepped the cat.
     He turned to see if Charley was there. What he saw was the leg of the largest human he had ever seen, a boy who towered so high into the room, Tom could not see his head.
     Confused, Tom called, “Charley?”
     “Right here,” came a voice from the huge boy.
     A shock ran through Tom from the tip of his nose leather to the tip of his tail. He understood: He had a tail because he’d become a cat. A cat that looked exactly like Charley, even as Charley now looked exactly like Tom.
     They had exchanged bodies.
     Tom lifted a hand in front of his face. It was a paw covered with black-and-gray fur. “Cool,” he said. “I’ve become a cat.”
     “Let’s go,” Charley urged, and gave Tom a gentle spank on his rump to get him out the door.
     Though Tom had spent his whole life in that neighborhood, going home was like traveling through a foreign county. Everything was gigantic. Even things he could recognize—like mailboxes—appeared to be twisted into odd shapes. What’s more, he seemed to be at the bottom of a sea of smells. One moment he sensed something delicious to eat. The next moment he had a trembling awareness of danger that was almost instantly followed by a whiff of calm. That in turn was taken over by the delicate scent of friendship. Tom, who had never been aware of such smells, was astonished he could identify them so clearly.
     Even more amazing was that his body felt so ­different. He had never thought much about having hands and feet, or a head, for that matter, unless he bumped himself. Now he felt loose and jangly, as though he were not tied together tightly. He was also very aware of his skin. Some spots felt so dirty he had a desire to lick them clean. Other places itched and were in need of scratching. He even had a desire to stretch out and flex his nails into something deep and soft, like a nice stuffed chair.
     The only reason he didn’t do all these things was because he was having trouble keeping up with Charley, who was striding along on long human legs.
     “Come on, now. Don’t dawdle,” Charley kept saying. Tom, fearing he would not be able to get back home on his own, hurried.
     They reached the house. Tom was about to open the door when he realized he could not do it. Charley did.
: 14pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 150%; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt"     “Oh, there you are,” came the familiar voice of Tom’s father. “I was getting worried about where you were.”
     Tom answered. He said, “Charley and I went for a walk,” but the only sound he heard was a meow.
     “That cat seems to know,” Tom’s father said with a good-natured laugh. “Where were you?”
     “Just hanging around the neighborhood,” said Charley vaguely.
     “Don’t you have homework to do?”
     “No problem. I just have to start writing an essay called ‘The Most Exciting Thing That Ever Happened to Me.’”
     “Interesting. What are you going to write about?”
     “Don’t know. But I’m really looking forward to it.”
     “Hey,” said Tom’s father, “I love to hear that enthusiasm for a change.”
     Tom, curling about Charley’s feet, felt contented. “I’m going off to sleep,” he announced. Charley reached down and gave Tom a reassuring scratch behind the ear.
     Tom strolled over to his own bed, leaped up, found the cat’s pillow, and closed his eyes. In moments he was asleep, purring gently.
     Charley sat down to compose the essay.
 
During the next few days, all went well. Tom enjoyed doing nothing, sleeping all day on his own bed. ­Occasionally he slept in a different place. Once, he went for a stroll in the backyard.
     Meanwhile, Charley lived Tom’s life. He went to school. He played with Tom’s friends. He enjoyed Tom’s family.
On the fifth day Tom began to get restless. He was bored with just sleeping. He would have watched television, but he had to wait for others to turn the TV on, and they didn’t always choose his favorite programs.
     Twice, Tom started to read the daily newspapers only to be picked up and placed firmly in the litter box. He was not being understood.
     Frustrated, Tom ventured onto the streets. Once there he narrowly avoided being hit by a car, had his tail pulled by an infant, was teased by an older child, and then was chased by a dog. By then he’d begun to think he’d had enough of being a cat. He took a nap.
     That afternoon, when he got home from school, Charley put his schoolbooks down and said, “Today was not a good day!”
     Tom awoke, yawned, stretched, and looked around. “What’s the matter?”
     “Remember that essay?”
     “‘The Most Exciting Thing That Ever Happened to Me’?”
     “Exactly,” Charley said. “You know how hard I worked on it. It was due today. When we got to the moment to share papers, I volunteered to read mine.”
     “Mr. Oliver must have been surprised.”
     “He sure was. I guess you never volunteered for anything.”
     “No way,” Tom agreed.
     “Anyway, he called on me and I read.”
     “What happened?”
     Charley held up the pages he had written. “He said my work was a fine piece of writing, but he didn’t want fiction. He wanted something real.
     “What did you write about?”
     “Transformation: ‘How I, Once a Boy, Became a Cat.’ Though the whole class liked it and Mr. Oliver admitted it was fun, he said I have to do the whole thing again. Make it real. But every word of it was true!” Disgusted, Charley threw his paper onto his desk.
     Tom scratched himself beneath the chin. “You could write about that time you caught a mouse.”
     “Oh sure. As if he’d believe that,” said Charley, and he went off in a huff.
     Tom, reminding himself that he wanted to talk to Charley about going through the transformation process again, was just about to slip back into a nap when something Charley had said floated through his mind. What was it? Oh yes . . . did Charley say that the subject he had written about was, “How I, Once a Boy, Became a Cat”?
     Surely what Charley meant to say was the other way around—that is, “How I, Once a Cat, Became a Boy.” Or was he writing about how he, Tom, became a cat?
     It was too confusing. Tom yawned and shut his eyes again. But he could not sleep. What Charley had said bothered him.
     At last he got up and looked around for Charley, but the boy had gone out. Back in his room, Tom noticed that the paper Charley had written was lying on the desk.
     He read it. It was just what Charley had said: a report about a boy who had turned into a cat. This boy, so Charley had written, wished to become a cat and sleep all the time. That was familiar enough. In fact, as Tom went through it, the whole story was his own experience. However, in Charley’s story, the boy’s name was Charley and the cat’s name was Felix.
     Why, Tom wondered, would Charley have everything the same, except the names?
     “Hey, Charley,” Tom said that night as Charley sat at the desk working on his new essay. “I read your essay.”
     Charley glanced around. He seemed surprised. “That’s not like you.”
     “You left it out.”
     “Whatever. Did you . . . like it?”
     “It was fine,” said Tom. “It was pretty accurate, too. Except for two things.”
     “What’s that?”
     “You changed the names around. You called the boy Charley and the cat Felix.”
     “Oh, right,” said Charley, turning back to his work.
     “How come you did that?” Tom asked.
     “It was supposed to be true,” Charley muttered.
     Tom frowned. “I don’t follow.”
     Charley turned around to gaze at Tom evenly. “I guess there’s no harm in telling you now.
     “Telling what now?”
     “Well, before I introduced myself to you and you took me in, I was once a boy, and my name was Charles.”
     “You were?”
     “See, I was bored with my life—so bored, I began thinking that things would be better if I were a cat. As it turned out, I met a cat. Or rather, this cat introduced himself to me. His name was Felix. Felix knew about one of these neighborhood wizard-cats. Sound familiar? You can guess the rest.”
     As Charley was telling this story, Tom felt increasingly troubled. “Charley,” he said, “are you tell­ing me—as you sit at my desk, wearing my clothes, doing my homework, looking like me—that at one time you were a boy and then became a cat? But then you decided you didn’t want to be a cat and so became me instead?”
     “You’ve got it.”
     “But . . . but why didn’t you and that Felix just change back to what you were?”
     “Felix didn’t want to be a cat again.”
     “He didn’t?”
     “Nope.”
     “Charley, are you saying you found me and tricked me into—”
     Tom interrupted, “It was what you wanted, too.”
     “But that’s outrageous!” cried Tom. “Anyway,” he said, “I’ve had enough of sleeping. I want to change back.”
     “Sorry,” Charley said. “Too late for that.”
     Tom, who was becoming increasingly upset, stared at Charley. “What do you mean?”
     “I prefer being a boy again. This is a great place and your family is nice.” So saying, he left the room, shutting the door behind him.
     At first Tom was too astounded to do anything. Then he leaped off the bed and headed right for the door, only to remember that he had to get a person to open it for him. He called to Charley, but it was not Charley who came. It was his mother.
     “Want to go out?” she asked, reaching down and chucking Tom under the chin.
     “Of course I want to go out,” Tom said in a rather irritated way. But when he spoke, all his mother heard was caterwauling.
     “Isn’t it cute the way cats talk,” she said as she scooped him up and set him gently but firmly out the front door. “Now go play.”
     An indignant Tom looked up and down the street. It was all very different since he had become a cat. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to sort out the many scents. Then he began to go ­toward what he hoped would be an audience with Maggie.
     It took a while, but at last Tom found the abandoned building. Once again he went into the basement, then to the long, dimly lit hallway, passing through the multitude of cats. The large tiger cat sat in front of the doorway at the end of the hall.
     “What can we do for you?” asked the large cat.
     Tom said, “A transformation.”
     “With whom?”
     “With the one I was transformed from.”
     “Is he here?”
     “Well, no.”
     “Then forget it. Anyway, Maggie’s out.”
     “Where?”
     “Hey, pal, she has her own life.”
     “But . . .”
     “Beat it, tomcat,” snarled the large cat, and he hissed. Tom backed away and made his way home.
     That night Tom had it out with Charley.
     “The point is,” Tom said hotly, “you weren’t being honest with me. In your paper you said you were a boy.”
     “I was.”
     “Then you became a cat, and now you’re a boy again.”
     “All true.”
     “Now you say you have no desire to change back.”
     “I’m being honest, dude,” said Charley. “Come on, you wanted to sleep all day, didn’t you? Just lay about.”
style="FONT-SIZE: 14pt; LINE-HEIGHT: 150%; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt"     “I know. But that’s more boring than staying awake.”
     “Hey, Tom, you made a deal. If you don’t like it, go find another kid who is as bored with things as you were. Believe me, there are plenty of them. A lot of the cats at Maggie’s used to be kids who were bored with their lives.”
     “Is that true?”
     “Half the kids in your class used to be cats!”
     Tom was shocked. “They were?”
     “Trust me,” said Charley. “You know the story: Kids get bored. Want to sleep all day instead of going to school. Bingo! Kids become cats. Cats become kids. They’re the lively ones, always raising their hands.”
     “But I want to be a human,” Tom cried. “Not some cat!”
     “Go find a kid to exchange with you. Now please, leave me in peace. I have to write this essay.”
     “But . . .”
     Suddenly, Charley picked Tom up, and despite Tom’s howl of protest, put him out of the room.
     Tom slipped from the house through an open window. It was quite late, and the moon was large in the sky. He went around to the backyard, climbed the fence, and sniffed. The air was full of pungent smells. The only one he found interesting was the scent of his own home. It made his heart ache. Lifting his head, he let out a long piercing howl of misery. Then another.
     A window opened. A voice growled, “Shut up, cat! I’m trying to sleep!”
     A mournful Tom slunk out of the yard and onto the street. A thousand distinct odors wafted through the air, a tapestry of smells too complex for Tom to untangle.
     He wandered on, paying little attention to where he was going, up and down streets, through alleys, along back fences.
     Tom had been walking for about an hour when he heard spitting and hissing. He stopped and listened. It was a catfight. He looked to see where it was coming from, spied an alley, and trotted over.
     At the far end of the alley were two cats. One was a sleek brown Siamese, the other a gray cat. The gray one had been forced back against the fence by the Siamese.
     “Help!” cried the gray cat. “Help!”
     Hardly thinking of what he was doing, Tom let out a howl and dashed down the alley. The Siamese turned to confront him. Tom leaped over him and came down beside the gray cat. Tom hissed, showed his fangs, and raised a claw-extended paw.
     The Siamese, confronted by two cats, backed off, turned, and fled.
     “He’s gone,” Tom said, panting to catch his breath.
     “Thank you,” the gray cat replied.
     Tom turned and looked at this other cat for the first time. “Hey, you’re Maggie, the wizard-cat!” he cried.
     “Do I know you?” said Maggie.
     “My name is Tom. You transformed me from a boy. The cat was named Charley.”
     “I’m sorry. I can’t remember. These transformations come by the litter. After a while all you people look alike.”
     “We do?”
     “A certain blandness. No show of emotion. As if you can’t bother. So, sorry, I don’t remember you. But I’m ever so grateful. If I can return the favor . . .”
     “Oh, but you can,” Tom said eagerly.
     “How’s that?”
     “Transform me back.”
     “To what you were?”
     “Right.”
     “How does the other one—the one I transformed you with—feel?”
     “I don’t think he wants to switch.”
     “I’m afraid that’s what usually happens. It makes retransformation nearly impossible.”
     “But you can do it, can’t you?”
     “Oh sure, but the point is, you have to get the two heads side by side. If one doesn’t want to, and that one is a human, it isn’t easy.”
     “I can arrange it!” Tom cried.
     “How?”
     “Follow me.”
     Tom led the way back to his own house. They reached it by two in the morning. Finding the window through which Tom had got out still open, they crawled inside.
     Maggie looked about. “Nice place you got here,” she muttered.
     “Shh,” Tom whispered. He led the way to his room, and by standing up on his hind legs—Maggie helped—they were able to push the door open.
     Charley, head upon a pillow, lay fast asleep on the bed.
     “Now listen carefully,” Tom said to Maggie, “I’ll get on the pillow right next to him and put my head near his. Give me a minute. Then, you jump on and do what you normally do. Just make the transfor­mation.”
     Maggie giggled. “Someone’s going to be surprised.”
     “That’s Charley’s problem. He tricked me into this.”
     “That’s what you all say,” said Maggie.
     Tom leaped onto the bed and padded to his own pillow. Once there he lay down, tucked his paws under his chest, and nestled his head right next to Charley’s.
     Within moments Maggie followed. “Ready?” she whispered.
     “Ready,” Tom replied.
     “Here goes,” Maggie warned.
     Tom closed his eyes and waited for the tap on his forehead. When nothing happened he opened his eyes and found himself staring right into the face of a gray cat.
     Puzzled, Tom called, “Maggie?”
     “The name’s Charley,” the cat said.
     “Charley?” Tom cried, and looked down at himself. He was just the way he had been moments before—a cat. In a panic he turned. There, asleep, was a person who looked exactly like he had looked. As for the second cat, it looked just like Maggie.
GHT: 150%; TEXT-ALIGN: left" align=left     “Hey,” Charley—now Maggie—growled, “what’s going on? How come I’m a cat again?”
     “I’m afraid . . . Maggie did it,” said Tom.
     “Maggie? The wizard-cat?”
     “I think so. She did the transformation on herself and you. She’s become . . . us.
One week later, Tom—who had spent all his time prowling the streets—suddenly stopped. He was in a park not far from a bench. Sitting on the bench was a girl. She was not doing anything in particular, just sitting. Now and again she swung a leg back and forth. Then she yawned, looked at her watch, and yawned again.
     Tom watched her for about fifteen minutes. In all that time the girl continued to just sit there, a slight frown on her face. She looked bored.
     Tom went forward and sat down in front of the girl.
     “What’s happening?” he said.
     The girl looked down at him. After a moment she said, “Nothing.”
     “Doing anything?” asked Tom.
     “Nothing to do,” the girl replied.
     “Bored?”
     “Always.”
     Tom got up, stretched, and then rubbed himself against the girl’s leg. “You sound like my kind of friend,” he said.
 
 Copyright © 2006 by Avi
 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, ­including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
 
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2014

    K

    D

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    for anon

    Avi is just a pen name

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Avi?

    I dont know who or what is avi. Can someone tell me who he is? But i do like his books

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  • Posted September 20, 2010

    Weird!

    All I can say is creepy.Maybe other people like it but I don't.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2009

    to:the book about strange happenings avi

    i love this story i hate reading but ill just read this book,it is a good book,thank you for making this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted January 17, 2009

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    Posted January 19, 2014

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