My Life as a Cat by Carlie Sorosiak

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My Life as a Cat by Carlie Sorosiak

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Accessible and heartwarming children's sci-fi, that manages to be both funny and moving throughout.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2020
Publisher: Nosy Crow Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1788006088

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This is the story of an alien who has come down to spend some time on earth living as a human. It's something that each member in the alien collective is allowed to do, for 1 month, once they reach a certain age. Leonard comes to earth but gets distracted en route, and so something goes wrong with his arrival and he finds that instead of landing in Yellowstone Park, ready to work as a park ranger, he is instead in the body of a cat on the other side of the country! This is not what he had planned! Not only is he in the wrong place and the wrong body, he is also in the middle of a storm, stuck in a tree! And so he meets Olive, the little girl who rows out in a boat to rescue him, and who names him Leonard.

The story is told by Leonard, looking back over his time on earth. This helps to make it funny, because Leonard is a highly intelligent being, but he's stuck inside the body of a cat! So not only is he experiencing earth for the first time, he's also experiencing being a cat, which of course he hasn't researched, so everything is strange for him! Olive is herself a bit of a fish out of water. She feels different to other children, and finds she struggles to fit in, and she's been sent away to her grandmother's for the summer whilst her mum travels around with a new boyfriend. So with the arrival of Leonard, Olive finds a friend, someone who needs her, and the friendship only deepens when Olive discovers the truth of who Leonard actually is.

I think the friendship story might be my favourite part of this book. The platonic relationship that Leonard and Olive build is really lovely to watch as it grows and develops. I found it quite an emotional read, and you really learn to care for Olive. She's such a nice kid, and when you find out what Frank, her mum's new boyfriend had told her, about how she's weird and she doesn't know how to make friends properly you really hate him, and love Olive even more. The way she helps Leonard is so sweet to watch, and you are rooting for both of them to find happiness.

There's a lovely slow-growing build to your feelings about Olive's grandmother too, Norma, who initially seems quite harsh and cold but, as you get to know her more, you start to understand her better. Leonard and Olive also make friends with Q, a quirky guy who works at the local aquarium where Olive and Leonard go to help out some days. He helps Olive see that she doesn't need to be like everybody else, and that she is likeable and fun to be with just as she is.

Although the story involves aliens it isn't your typical sci-fi story, and I felt there were elements that a really wide readership would enjoy. The whole story moves at a good pace, heading towards an exciting ending, and you finish with a really nice, warm, happy feeling inside! If I had any criticisms it would only be over the alien-side to Leonard, as I felt that some of the things he said didn't quite sit right with the idea of a 'collective', since he seems to have been having his own individual thoughts and feelings, in his thinkings about earth, for quite some time rather than being just part of a whole. However, this did mean that Leonard also is a bit different to others where he comes from, which sets him up better for his friendship with Olive.

There are lots of little bits and pieces of information about animals through the story, and there's even a bit of a road trip across America to enjoy. It's a good page-turner, and a good, challenging read for those who haven't been doing chapter books for long. Great for reading alone, or for a bedtime share. I have to say that personally I'm more of a dog person than a cat person, but I think even I would like a cat like Leonard!

Further reading suggestions: You might also like to take a look at the author's previous story, I, Cosmo by Carlie Sorosiak

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