When I was a kid I broke into reading by journeying with the BFG as he met the Queen for lunch and as the Hodgeheg ambled along his life. These are memories that I will always hold dear and I can’t wait for the day when my daughters are old enough to read a chapter per night of some of the best kid’s books out there. I can, of course, get a head start which I’ve done by reading To Be A Cat by Matt Haig.
A good kid’s book should contain a hero that children can relate to, an enemy that is truly despicable and evil, possibly a broken family and a touch of magic – in either the literal or figurative sense. Matt Haig’s new book contains all of those things and it is wonderful, it is also very reminiscent of those books from my own childhood.
We meet Barney Willow as he lives a rather unhappy life; his Father has gone missing, he is bullied constantly at school, his Mother has become a blur of movement rather than the figurehead he needs in life and his head teacher hates him. Then, along comes a cat and Barney wishes that he could be a cat. Little does he know that cats are magic and this cat wants to be a human, which leads them to switch places.
This forces Barney onto a journey to discover self confidence and happiness. It’s a lovely story of family, friendship and morals. This is what I love about reading these books; they are brilliantly sweet and are storytelling in its simplest form. I love that play of good vs. evil and kid’s books seem to nail it perfectly.
Barney is a wonderful central character, too. He has all of the insecurities that people suffer from… and not just as children. This makes him even more endearing as we reminisce on our own past and present insecurities. But to just talk about Barney would be an injustice as the supporting cast is wonderful.
Rissa, Barney’s best friend is the friend we all wanted as a kid, someone who cares endlessly and is an oddity herself. Gaving the school bully is wonderfully bad just as Miss Whipmire is wonderfully evil. She has her reasons, but to say would be to spoil the plot awfully. One of my standout favourites happens to be Barney’s dog who is ever so regal in his position as a King Charles Spaniel and whose speech is a pleasant niceness in Barney’s horrible transformation.
I thoroughly enjoyed Matt Haig’s latest and his interferences as the Author’s Voice in the novel is lovely. Matt has created a wonderful little book for children, though to be honest I think even adults would enjoy this story. Of course all of Matt’s words are joined by quirky, simple and delightful illustrations from Pete Williamson. To Be A Cat should be enjoyed by all. Children will want to read it and parents will want to read it to them.
This book was supplied kindly by the publisher.