The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield


Alexander Baddenfield is a horrible boy—a really horrible boy—who is the last in a long line of lying, thieving scoundrels.  One day, Alexander has an astonishing idea.  Why not transplant the nine lives from his cat into himself?  Suddenly, Alexander has lives to spare, and goes about using them up, attempting the most outrageous feats he can imagine.  Only when his lives start running out, and he is left with only one just like everyone else, does he ...

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The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield

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Alexander Baddenfield is a horrible boy—a really horrible boy—who is the last in a long line of lying, thieving scoundrels.  One day, Alexander has an astonishing idea.  Why not transplant the nine lives from his cat into himself?  Suddenly, Alexander has lives to spare, and goes about using them up, attempting the most outrageous feats he can imagine.  Only when his lives start running out, and he is left with only one just like everyone else, does he realize how reckless he has been.

With its wickedly funny story and equally clever illustrations, this is dark humor at its most delicious.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“To say that the Baddenfield family had a checkered past is to insult innocent board games everywhere,” writes Marciano (Madeline at the White House). That arch observation—along with an opening graveside scene that makes it clear that bratty 12-year-old Alexander Baddenfield’ s death is wholly unregretted—may initially convince readers that they’ve found a book to plug the blackhearted hole once filled by Lemony Snicket. The tale, which concerns Alexander’s attempt to thwart the family curse of early death by stealing a cat’s nine lives, tips its hat both to A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Simpsons (the relationship between Alexander and his retainer, Winterbottom, instantly brings to mind the lopsided adoration of Smithers for Mr. Burns). There’s devilish humor to be found watching Alexander waste life after life, but the story wears itself out with weak characterizations, forced jokes, and swipes at the evils of wealth. Blackall’s Charles Addams vibe is a natural choice, but her intermittent illustrations are actually quite prim, even Alexander’s nine death scenes. Ages 10–up. Author’s agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. Illustrator’s agent: Nancy Gallt, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—As Marciano is descended from Ludwig Bemelmans, so might Alexander Baddenfield be descended from Madeline's nemesis-turned-friend Pepito "The Bad Hat." Alexander, however, never sees the error of his ways. He is thoroughly bad for his entire nine lives-a circumstance he engineers by arranging for the transplantation of eight lives from his cat to himself. The rashness of youth combines with the recklessness of a person with many lives to lose as Alexander experiments wildly with the third rail of the subway system, the murky waters and treacherous currents of the Hudson River, an Icarus-style flight launched from the Empire State Building, an extremely brief stint as a matador, and more. When Alexander nears his final demise, he becomes overly cautious, immuring himself in his castle and avoiding any possible brushes with mortality. Naturally, that doesn't work, and the world is left a better place. The amusing, if macabre, premise is abetted by Blackall's slightly creepy gray and black-toned illustrations, in which hourglasses, the Grim Reaper, and funeral ribbons are recurring motifs. It's great to see Marciano enlarging his scope and good fun to see him partnered with Blackall.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Adult readers may find themselves desperately searching the subtext of this book for hidden lessons; children will probably just relish it. Rather like The Bad Beginning, this curious uncautionary tale lays all its cards on the table right up front. To readers expecting growth in the aptly named child's character arc, the narrator says, "If this were a Hollywood movie, or a fairy tale, or a run-of-the-mill chapter book, this would undoubtedly be the case. But in the real world such things rarely happen." All of the elder, equally venal generations of Baddenfields having perished young, 12-year-old Alexander decides to have a life transplant, using the eight extra lives of his cat, Shaddenfrood, as a resource--and over the protests of his faithful servant, Winterbottom (as good as Alexander is bad). Lives installed, he goes on to run through them all at a spectacular rate. (Shaddenfrood, purring appropriately, survives.) Blackall's characteristically knowing illustrations and dramatic design decisions reinforce Marciano's gleefully morbid humor and bely the seeming amorality of the tale. The purposeful fading of the text during Alexander's ninth and last demise encourages readers to grapple with it. Adults will be grasping for an obvious point, an impulse reinforced by references to the myth of Icarus and Frankenstein and digs at the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, but child readers will likely be way ahead of them. Freely embracing the literary principle that, at bottom, evil is better fun than good, this envelope-pushing bonbon may not have an easily discernible moral, but that's its strength. (Gothic humor. 10-14)
From the Publisher
Praise for The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield

"Deliciously wicked"—Booklist

"Fun for a sophisticated reader, with puns, anagrams, and good-natured satirical potshots"—The Horn Book

“There’s devilish humor to be found…”—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670014064
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 10/3/2013
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 795,810
  • Age range: 10 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 890L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

John Bemelmans Marciano

John lives in Brooklyn, where he shares an art studio with Sergo Ruzzier, Brian Floca, and Sophie Blackall.

Sophie Blackall is also a New York Times best-selling illustrator. She is originally from Australia and has illustrated over 25 books for children. Her books Include the Ivy and Bean series, as well as BIG RED LOLLYPOP, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year. Sophie also lives in Brooklyn, where she also shares an art studio with Sergio Ruzzier and Brian Floca. She sits close enough to John Bemelmans Marciano to throw her eraser at him, but she hardly ever does.

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