Monday, July 15, 2013

To Be a Cat by Matt Haig

To Be a Cat by Matt Haig
Copyright 2012
Corgi (a division of Random House) - Children's Fantasy/Middle Reader
312 pp.

From the cover:

What if I told you that tomorrow you'd wake up as a cat?  That's right.  You heard me. A cat.  Whiskers, fur, four paws, a tail -- the real deal.  You might not believe me.  But really, you should be thanking me.  Most people don't have any kind of warning, you see.  It comes as a complete shock to them.  It came as a shock to Barney Willow.

My little synopsis:

Barney Willow isn't very confident.  The kids pick on him at school and the head teacher seems to have a vendetta against him, though he can't say why.  His parents are divorced and his father has disappeared.  The only real light in his life is his best friend, Rissa. 

What Barney doesn't realize is that cats are magic.  And, when you wish to be a cat, you can trade places with one.  After Barney becomes a cat, he discovers something much more sinister is going on than just a simple magic bit of switcheroo.  Can Barney stay alive long enough to become human, again?  

Best opening, ever:

Here is a secret I shouldn't really tell you, but I will because I just can't help it.  It's too big.  Too good. OK, sit down, get ready, brace yourself, have some emergency chocolate handy.  Squeeze a big cushion.  Here it is: 
Cats are magic. 
~p. 1

The first chapter had me laughing out loud and it stays funny but it's equal parts humorous and creepy. As books for young readers go, To Be a Cat is awfully entertaining.  I read it in two big gulps.  Matt Haig has a delicious sense of humor and the story is unique enough to keep surprising even an adult.  

Highly recommended - A delightful story with a likable young hero, a quirky sidekick, a nicely sinister arch enemy and a clever storyline.  I learned about Matt Haig via Twitter (where he is one of my tweeps) and decided to start with a children's book about a cat for obvious reasons (Crazy Cat Lady alert).  

Good choice and now I'm anxious to read The Humans, Haig's latest adult novel.  In fact, I regret not picking up a copy in London.  It has a beautiful British cover but the American cover is hideous.  I can't imagine why they went with that image.  Wait, I'll show you:

American cover at left.

British cover at right.

Colorful vs. . . . what?  Were they going for "striking"?  A gorgeous, colorful cover is much more likely to grab my attention.  I came perilously close to buying it but restrained myself because it was a hardback and I try to shoot for buying only paperbacks when I travel. But, now I really want a copy.  I'm just going to have to go back to London. That's all there is to it.

I purchased my copy of To Be a Cat at Foyle's (the flagship store on Charing Cross Road -- go there if you're ever in London; you'll love it).  

Also, if you have experienced depression or know someone who is suffering, you must read Matt Haig's "Reasons to Stay Alive", which is very inspiring.  

©2013 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I knew that author name looked familiar!! This book sounds cool, and I want to read The Humans.

    1. Yep, need to read it, now. You know him from Twitter, too? I'm slowly realizing Twitter has influenced my reading in the past year or two.

  2. He's pretty much an ideal for an author on Twitter - doesn't just repeat his books over and over, but interacts and posts interesting stuff. His name is also familiar to me from his brave piece about depression in The Telegraph last month. I have The Radleys on my TBR at the moment.

    1. Yes, exactly. Caroline Leavitt, Alex George and Brandon Jones are all great about that, too. I typically don't follow authors who post nothing but links to their book or excerpts. That gets tiresome very quickly. He has written some terrific articles about depression. I've read 2 of them and loved them both. Wish my depression had gone that way. I wrote prolifically before I became depressed (about 15 years ago) and then just stopped writing fiction completely.

      Ooooh, you have The Radleys! I need to add you to my sidebar so I don't miss that review. :)


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