My last review for The Bell Jar was super heavy, so I thought I’d follow it up with something super fun. My daughter, who is 7, is reading well above her grade level so we’ve moved on to chapter books. On one trip to the library, we stumbled across this one. She is feline obsessed, so naturally we had to pick it up even it was a bit mature still for her as a middle grade book. Look at that cover! How could you not want to know what lay within the pages? So I read a little of it to her each night, and I think I liked it even better than she did.
Our protagonist is a member of an alien race whose members are each given the opportunity to travel to Earth and live in the body of an Earth creature for a certain amount of time. Think of it like a vision quest. They get to choose which Earth creature they will live as for their time on Earth, and our alien decides he wants to be human. Specifically, he wants to be a park ranger at Yellowstone, because there’s nothing more badass than a Yellowstone park ranger. Unfortunately, something goes a little wrong on his journey to Earth and he arrives in the body of a cat in South Carolina, hundreds of miles from his pickup spot in Yellowstone. As a space alien who has not intricately studied how to be a cat, he finds himself in a little bit of a predicament. He doesn’t have much time to get to his destination to meet with his people before he is stuck in the body of a cat forever. With the help of a wonderful little girl and the quirky people who surround her, our furry hero just might complete his quest, and he might still learn something about being human after all.
Everything about this book is wonderful. The cover is delightful, the characters are quirky and magical, the pacing is just about perfect with a wonderful mix of action thrown in to keep things interesting, and it’s ultimately a very heartwarming tale that all kids should read. It’s also laugh out loud funny in parts. Any child who has ever felt misunderstood, lonely, or wondered why they were so different than everyone else will find a friend in Olive, Leonard’s human companion. And adults might find themselves contemplating what it means to be truly blessed, that love manifests in many different ways. While my daughter isn’t really ready yet to contemplate these more cerebral themes, it does give us the opportunity to talk, her asking questions and me helping connect the dots. That’s what makes books like this so special. On another note, cat lovers will be extra amused by Leonard’s journey discovering the workings of his feline form, how exactly one such as Leonard goes about learning to eat, bathe (particularly amusing), and communicate as a cat.
Young or old alike, I recommend this beautiful story.
Published April 13, 2021 by Walker Books US. ISBN 1536207705. 240 pages.