A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that by today's standards some of this is uncomfortably stereotyped: For instance, the Japanese emperor Ichigo actually says, "Ah so!"
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
After an especially bad day Jason's cat, Gareth, reveals that he can talk, and that the nine-lives legend actually refers to a cat's ability to visit nine other lives, in nine different times and places. Soon the pair is off through the centuries, to visit the famous and the not-so-famous.
They meet a young daVinci in Italy, who is having trouble convincing his father to let him study art; a company of Roman soldiers who need a mascot; a Spanish captain in Peru; and others. Each is having some difficulty, and all either involve or are solved by -- a cat.
Is it any good?
Veteran author Lloyd Alexander's first book shows the promise that would make him one of the most well-known authors in children's literature, as well as some rookie clunkers. There's a sweetness to this story and a gentle diffidence that keeps the story at some emotional distance -- both a strength and a weakness. The scary parts are not very scary, and the humor is mildly amusing. It's interesting, well paced, and reassuring, a good bedtime book that won't keep young readers up late worrying.
Perhaps because of when it was written (1963) parts of it are uncomfortably stereotyped, especially the Japanese chapter. The biggest clunker is the ending, the old was-it-all-a dream-or-wasn't-it bit that is more tired now than ever, and was never a satisfying way to end a story. But up until then the book is pleasantly fascinating and may prompt some research, which may yield surprising results.