To Be A Cat by Matt Haig

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To Be A Cat by Matt Haig

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Super dark humour for tween readers about a boy who is turned into a cat and discovers not only a whole other world, but also finds out a great deal about the human condition.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: February 2012
Publisher: Bodley Head
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0370332067

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

Be careful what you wish for - it might actually come true!

If someone had said this to Barney Willow before he wished to be a cat, if someone had made him believe it, then he might have avoided a great deal of trouble. But if you want to find out what he'd also have missed out on, then you'll need to read this lively and tragi-comic body swap story.

Barney's life is pretty much going nowhere. His parents got divorced and a while later his father disappeared off the face of the earth. Dad's a Missing Person. His mum works long hours at the library so is constantly distracted. He's being bullied by thuggish Gavin Needle, and his school's headteacher, Miss Whipmire, has it in for him. And he only has one friend. Rissa is a good friend, to be sure, but she is the only one.

If you were Barney, you might also envy a cat sleeping in the sun, mightn't you? You might even wish to be that cat. Live its easy life. Purr a bit. Lap up some cream. And this is exactly what Barney does. But when he wakes up with whiskers and fur - and the Willow family's spaniel in hot pursuit - Barney discovers there is a lot more peril involved in a cat's life than he had ever imagined.

Everyone loves a good body swap story, especially me. There are all sorts of opportunities for jokes and slapstick, but plenty of room left for bittersweet moments of pathos. And Matt Haig takes advantage of them all, as Barney careers around trying to get back into his human body whilst evading a demonic headmistress and a vicious bully, searching for his missing father, and trying to make his best friend see what has happened. It's lively and energetic, funny and sad, and rather exciting at times. And it also has an important moral: always be yourself and be happy in yourself.

The style is bright and breezy, with lots of one-liners and chatty authorial interventions, giving the book appeal for a wide range of children and making it a particularly good choice for reluctant readers. To Be A Cat comes thoroughly recommended by Bookbag.

I don't know any other stories about little boys that get turned into cats, but you might also enjoy Moon Pie by Simon Mason, in which a family is also missing a parent, and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, in which animals also take centre stage.

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Buy To Be A Cat by Matt Haig at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy To Be A Cat by Matt Haig at


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