In her book Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You are So Old and Wise, Katherine Rundell says that “Children’s novels say: “look, this is what bravery looks like. This is what generosity looks like. They tell me, through the medium of wizard, lions and talking spiders, that this world we live in is a world of people who tell jokes and work and endure. Children’s books say the world is huge.” And this has never been truer when reading and discussing the writing of Carlie Sorosiak. Having read and loved her last 9-12 book I, Cosmo last year, I knew I was in for a treat when I got my hands on a copy of My Life as a Cat. Carlie Sorosiak really had the gift of distilling humanity and showing us the really important things in life: cheese sandwiches, spending time with your loved ones, enjoying a day by the sea. This is why upon finishing her new cat adventure, I have been recommending it to everyone both young and old.
My Life as a Cat is the story of an alien coming to our planet for a month. Once turning 300-years-old, this alien species are allowed to spend a month on a planet, and our alien protagonist chooses to be a park ranger in Yellowstone on planet Earth. Not surprisingly, as you can guess from the titles, the calculations go wrong, and our alien narrator finds himself inhabiting the body of a cat. In a quick series of events, a human child, 11-years-old Olive, saves the alien cat and names it Leonard. Leonard has a month to spend with Olive, her grandmother Norma, and Norma’s friend/colleague Q who works at the aquarium at Turtle Beach. The whole book spans over this one glorious month in which we see the blossoming of Leonard’s relationship with the humans around him, Olive’s overcoming of her insecurities, and Norma’s dealing with her grief.
This summary does not do justice of exactly how brilliant the book is! The characters are well-rounded and very compelling. The reason behind Olive’s shyness is explained from the very beginning, and we get to see her slowly blossoming and becoming more and more confident. Norma’s grief – her son, Olive’s father, had died a few years ago – is still eating her up. However, the time she spends with her granddaughter and Leonard also change her for the better and by the end we see her embracing life a bit more. In the centre of all these changes is of course Leonard the cat/alien. It is not only Olive and Norma who undergo a change but Leonard, too. Bit by bit he embraces the cat life and he also embraces his newfound family. His dream to experience human life for a month comes true although in a slightly different fashion. It is through him that we see the magic of having people around you who accept you the way you are and encourage you to be confident. It is also through Leonard that we get a gentle reminder about what truly matters in life. Sorosiak has a real gift for showing us the beauty and magic of human life and how we can find them in the simplest things. Grilled sandwiches become magical when you read about them in the book, going to the cinema with the people you love gives you a simple yet life-affirming, warm feeling, and it is Leonard’s story that draws our attention to all these wonders that we sometimes overlook. It is also worth mentioning what a great character Q is. He is the type of adult character that should be seen more often in children’s books. He is kind, compassionate and open-minded, and he plays a big part in building Olive’s confidence.
As a whole, I can’t recommend this book enough. Whether you are 11 or much older, this is a book that will enrich your life and leave you with a massive grin and a warm feeling, and goodness knows, we can all benefit from this in 2020.
My Life As A Cat is out now, published by Nosy Crow.