I’m going to divulge a secret I’ve never told anyone*: I love Lloyd Alexander’s books. For the most part my favorites of his are series: The Adventures of Vesper Holly, The Westmark Trilogy, The Chronicles of Prydain. But his one-shot novels have their own merits, and of them one of the best and brightest is The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man.
The plot is pretty much nutshelled by the title. The cat, Lionel, wishes to be a man. Lucky for him, his owner is a magician who can grant this wish…to teach Lionel the error of his wishes, of course, since humans are dumb and inferior to cats. So Lionel is humanized—literally—and sets off to learn the error of his ways in the vaguely European medieval/renaissance village.
Anyone with a passing acquaintance of Alexander’s storytelling style knows that the naïve hero is about to blunder into become nemeses with the Villain of the story, who is probably the hypocritical leader of the town. The naïve hero will then make some comic relief friends, usually an impish street urchin and a buffoonish and luckless academic. And along the way he will quite by accident fall in love with a streetwise, spunky young woman.
All of this happens in The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man, so it is a perfect introduction to the Awesomeness That Is Lloyd Alexander.
Lloyd Alexander was obviously partial to those of the kitty extraction: his book titles alone include Time Cat, Town Cats and Other Tales, as well as the picture books Dream-of-Jade: The Emperor’s Cat and The Cat Who Swallowed Thunder. I read this book before I had a cat, but that did not stop me from enjoying it as a then-confirmed dog lover. Now that I’ve “gone to the dark side” I appreciate the feline humor of this book all the more.
*Okay this was a blatant lie; but to be fair it’s hard to think of new ways to introduce these blog posts!
Recommended Reading Age: 10+Parental Notes: Some parents might object to the magic element of this story.
Availability: Surprisingly for Lloyd Alexander, who is so underappreciated most of his books are relegated to paperback, you can find copies at Amazon.
Adaptations: I wish. (Stephanus! Make it happen!)