To Be a Cat

To Be a Cat

5.0 3
by Matt Haig, Stacy Curtis
     
 

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When Barney’s feline fantasy comes true, the fur starts flying in this darkly hilarious and heartwarming tale.

Cats have it made. They laze in sun patches, are showered with affection by loving humans, can cough up hairballs wherever they want, and never have to wonder why their dad disappeared one day and never came back. It’s clearly much easier to

Overview

When Barney’s feline fantasy comes true, the fur starts flying in this darkly hilarious and heartwarming tale.

Cats have it made. They laze in sun patches, are showered with affection by loving humans, can cough up hairballs wherever they want, and never have to wonder why their dad disappeared one day and never came back. It’s clearly much easier to be a cat than to be a middle school boy.

So when Barney Willow wishes he could be a cat, and gets his wish, he should be thrilled. Except he’s not. He discovers that not all cats are cute and cuddly, and some of them are downright evil. He discovers that his own mother can’t see past the whiskers to recognize her darling son. Worst of all, he discovers that his life is in grave danger…and he doesn’t have eight lives to spare.

Editorial Reviews

July 2013 School Library Journal
"Peppered with quirky illustrations, the story features extreme characters and circumstances in the tradition of Roald Dahl.... Haig's cautionary tale is a unique one, and Barney's struggles will be understood by readers who are uncomfortable in their own skin."
July 2013 Booklist Online
"Barney wasn’t all that happy as a 12-year-old boy. First his dad moved out of the house, then disappeared altogether. His mum seems rushed and preoccupied. The school bully victimizes him mercilessly, and the principal regards him as her personal enemy. Still, after wishing to be a cat and magically becoming one, Barney desperately wants his old life back. Wishing got him into his predicament, but it’s just not enough to get him out of it. The plot takes some unexpected turns...the telling is engaging, and its generally light tone gives readers hope, even at the darkest moments. Barney makes a sympathetic protagonist, both as a boy and as a cat. Witty and sometimes exaggerated ink drawings with gray washes capture human expressions and feline body language with equal facility, and the jacket art is sure to attract readers."
Children's Literature - Elizabeth Fronk
Despite Barney Willow's twelfth birthday arriving he does not feel happy. . If he were a cat, he would have an easier life. Cats can come and go as they please, they don't have bullies,and no evil principals to boss them around. Barney would be free to look for his father who has vanished. His day descends to a new low when Principal Whipmire wants callsBarney to her office for a final warning before he gets expelled.. Even his good friend Rissa cannot help him feel better. The next morning, Barney gets his wish! He has become a carefree cat, but nobody knows that he is in a cat body. Barney discovers that other cats may be former humans like Barney, like his long lost father who may be the villainous Terrorcat. With Rissa's help Barney has to figure out how to become human againg before he is stuck as a cat forever. Fans of wry writing style, such as Roald Dahl can appreciate this novel's style. Middle elementary students would enjoy Barney's adventure. The only ruffled fur for a reader might come when an anonymous narrator interrupts the story in awkward places; it does not really add to the story. However, it has enough humor and a brisk pace that many middle school readers would enjoy. Reviewer: Elizabeth Fronk
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Barney Willow has a lot on his mind: his dad has disappeared from their small British town, his mom is constantly working, and he has become the target for the aggressions of both the school bully and the terrifying principal, Miss Whipmire. He finds solace in his best friend, but even that friendship is not enough to cancel out the misery of his 12th birthday when Miss Whipmire threatens to expel him from school. He sees a cat on his way home and thinks about how easy its life must be, wishing aloud that he could trade places with it. The next morning, Barney wakes up to find himself in the cat's body, and he quickly learns how difficult the day-to-day existence of an animal can be. As he navigates the feline world, he discovers the truth about Miss Whipmire, his father, and the bully, and he finds out that maybe being a human boy is not as awful as it seems. Peppered with quirky illustrations, the story features extreme characters and circumstances in the tradition of Roald Dahl, though it lacks some of the spark of his work. Nonetheless, Haig's cautionary tale is a unique one, and Barney's struggles will be understood by readers who are uncomfortable in their own skin.—Sarah Reid, Broome County Public Library, Binghamton, NY
Kirkus Reviews
This offbeat tale offers an uneasy mix of magical transformation, violence and bullying, and the dreary misery of family dysfunction. Ultimately, Barney Willow's sad and odd story drags on a bit too long. Depressed by his parents' divorce and tormented by a schoolmate, Barney is manipulated by a cruel adult into wishing his life away--literally. After magically switching bodies with a small cat named Maurice, Barney must discover how to regain his humanity. Pursued by Miss Whipmire, the school principal who encouraged his metamorphosis for reasons of her own, Barney seeks protection from his best friend Rissa and his mother. While they eventually understand his outlandish predicament and do their best to help, it's Barney's (mysteriously) absent father who provides the information needed to return to his former life. Haig's writing has somewhat Snicket-ian overtones with occasional coy authorial asides and plenty of pain, suffering, danger and despair. The plot offers some surprises but also feels repetitious in spots. Characterization is brisk but generally effective, with familiar types occupying the background: the quirky best friend with supportive, artsy parents, the vicious bully who turns out to have a surprising weak spot, the harried mum trying hard to carry on in the face of domestic difficulties. Simultaneously predictable and quirky, this will likely appeal to the author's fans but may not attract new readers. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442454064
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
06/10/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.73(h) x 0.82(d)
Lexile:
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

To Be a Cat

1.

A Secret


Here is a secret I shouldn’t really tell you, but I will because I just can’t help it. It’s too big. Too good. Okay, sit down, get ready, brace yourself, have some emergency chocolate handy. Squeeze a big cushion. Here it is:

Cats are magic.

That’s right.

Cats. They’re magic.

They have powers you and I can only dream of having.

But even as I tell you this I can see what you are thinking. You’re thinking, No, they don’t, cats are just cute little pets who sleep next to radiators all day long.

To which I would say—that’s just what they want you to think. And now you’re thinking, These are just words in a story written by some author with a boring name, and all authors aren’t to be trusted one bit, because they tell lies for a living.

And you’re a little bit right.

But stories aren’t always lies. They are things stored in all our imaginations—hence the name stories—and it is the author’s job to point them out. And some of the things we imagine are more true than the facts we learn in math, it’s just a different kind of truth to 76 - 15 = 61.

So yes, every cat who ever prowled the earth is capable of doing some very special things. Such as:

1. The ability to understand a thousand different animal languages (including gerbil, antelope, and the ridiculously complicated goldfish).

2. Fence-balancing.

3. The capability of napping anywhere—laps, kitchen floors, on top of TVs when the theme song to the news is blaring at full volume.

4. Smelling sardines from two miles away.

5. Purring. (Trust me, that is magic.)

6. The ability, via their whiskers, to sense approaching dogs.

7. *****-******* ***-*** *************.

Let’s stop here, at number seven. Okay, one to six seem quite ordinary. You might know cats do some of these things, even if you’ve never understood it as magic before. But if you see magic often enough it starts to look normal. And don’t get me wrong, this is by no means the end of the list. Indeed, the list is so long that it would fill ten whole books the size of this one, and your eyes would be bleeding by the time you got to 9,080,652: “radiator radar.”

But number seven is a good place to stop. This seventh power is the most important one, at least for the tale I am about to tell you. (Although, if you want to read a book about radiator-detecting felines, I highly recommend A. B. Crumb’s exceptional Warmpaws, which is by far the best of its type.)

Also, you might be wondering what *****-******* ***-*** ************* actually is. Well, we’ll get to that. Don’t be too greedy. Though you can’t have enough secrets in one chapter, you know. Not usually. But the truth is number seven is quite a big deal. I had to put asterisks instead of the actual letters because I’ve got to be careful how I tell you this. If I just came out with it right now, you’d either not believe me, or you’d have too much understanding all at once and you wouldn’t understand the hidden dangers.

So don’t worry, I’ll tell you about it in good time. What I will say is that those humans who get to experience it, come to understand its terrible and often deadly effects and certainly never look at a cat in the same way again. One of those poor souls was an unfortunate boy called Barney Willow, and he’s waiting for you on the very next page.

Meet the Author

Matt Haig’s first novel for young readers, Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest, won the UK’s Blue Peter Book of the Year Award and the Gold Smarties Award. He is also the author of various adult novels, including The Labrador Pact and The Radleys. Reviewers have called his writing “totally engrossing,” “touching, quirky, and macabre,” and “so surprising and strange it vaults into a realm of his own.” His books have been translated into twenty-five languages. He lives in York, England, and assures us he has never, ever been a cat—despite rumors that he was once a rather grumpy ginger tabby named Jeffrey.

Stacy Curtis finds it purr-fectly impawsible he’s ever been a cat. He is, however, a cartoonist, illustrator, printmaker, and twin who has illustrated more than twenty-five books for children, including the New York Times bestseller The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. He and his wife, Jann, live in the Chicago area and happily share their home with two dogs, Derby and Inky, and no cats.

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To Be a Cat 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I luv it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
READ IT, IF YOU NO WHATS GOOD FOR YOU
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it