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The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man

November 7, 2010

The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man by Lloyd Alexander
Genre: Fantasy
Age Level: Amazon rates it for ages 9-12; in our house, it’s good for ages 6-44. šŸ˜‰
Published: E.P. Dutton & Co., August 8, 1973
I Chose It Because: My kids picked it.
Discussion Points: greed; abuse of power; love; the mixture of good and bad qualities in people


Lionel is Magister Stephanus’s cat, and the eccentric wizard has granted him the gift of speech. Now Lionel wants to take it a step further; he begs his master to transform him into a human. Stephanus is opposed to this plan. He distrusts his fellow humans, and naturally, he is reluctant to give up his cat.

“Be glad you are a cat!” Stephanus cried. “Let me tell you about men: Wolves are gentler. Geese are wiser. Jackasses have better sense.” (p. 2)

Nevertheless, he grants Lionel’s wish, on the condition that he go to town, explore, and come right back. Secretly, he probably doesn’t expect Lionel to make it past the toll bridge at the town entrance.

When Lionel comes to theĀ  town of Brightford, as a green eyed, tawny haired young man, Lionel faces many challenges. Having never lived as a human, he is naive and accepts everything people say at face value. Yet he is surrounded by rogues who want to rob him. To make matters worse, he finds his feline abilities ebbing. And when he meets the inn-keeper, beautifulĀ  young Mistress Gillian, he may lose his heart as well.

This light fantasy, by the author of the Prydain Chronicles, seems to be in a medieval European setting. It explores what it means to be human, both the good and bad, in a sweet, funny way that will appeal to even young children. We enjoyed the colorful secondary characters, including the avaricious Mayor Pursewig and the illustrious Dr. Tudbelly, good-hearted charlatan who speaks mangled Latin. The story also offers a bit of action and adventure.

This is a delightful, funny story for middle grade readers and a wonderful family read aloud.

One Comment leave one →
  1. givingreadingachance permalink
    November 8, 2010 1:37 am

    Awesome, I like this one. I will probably get it if I find it here for a read-aloud.

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