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4.7 out of 5 stars50
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 31 January 2012
If you believe that dogs and cats do actually talk and have desires and personalities that extend above their cat basket or walk in the park, then this is the book for you!
Matt Haig tells the story of unhappy Barney Willow who learns the hard way that you should never wish to be anything other than yourself. Told with unique humour and just the right amount of sadness, you will be turning the pages quicker than you can say `cat's whiskers'!
The book centres around unconditional loyalty, courage in the face of impossible circumstances and the surprise that things are never as scary as you make them out to be, even bullies.
Barney Willow is one determined boy, but it is the other characters that are perhaps the true heroes of this tale. Rissa, Barney's best friend shows everyone that weird is wonderful and Guster, the King Charles Spaniel is the perfect combination of pomposity and allegiance- just like any spaniel!
A great book to encourage children to think about the things which truly matter and a thoroughly enjoyable read!
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on 12 August 2012
Barney Willow is a normal twelve year-old boy. He is average height, he has a best friend called Rissa and his favourite book is The Water Babies. But life has been getting Barney down of late. His parents are divorced, his dad has mysteriously disappeared, the school bully has made Barney his favourite target, and his vile headmistress seems determined to send his education down the drain. So when Barney sees a cat lounging outside his house, he can't help but wish that he was one too. A lazy, pampered, cosy cat. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Unfortunately, he's about to find out that you should be very careful what you wish for - and that life as a cat is a whole lot more dangerous than he could ever have imagined...

At first, I must admit, I wasn't sure if I was going to like the book or not. It is amusing and rapid-fire from the beginning, but until I got used to the style I found it a little manic and confusing. Then again, that same quality would make it a really good book to read aloud to younger children! As I settled into its rhythm it got better and better, and the general pace really picked up once Barney wasn't stuck in the helpless "Alas! Alack! No one knows it is I!" phase of his adventure. The plot became more coherent and lost its helter-skelter feel, and I was able to appreciate Haig's clever touch from a grown-up perspective even as I recognised how much a child would love the story too.

There was so much to admire here, so many flashes of genius! The characters are superb, from completely average-and-utterly-relatable Barney to the evil Miss Whipmire, whose revolting brand of all-consuming villainy reminded me of Roald Dahl's nastiest characters. The names Haig employs, on the other hand, were more Pratchett-esque, the most striking example being Mr Waffle, Barney's boring English teacher. The kitty word-play was clever too - calling someone a 'flea-brained cretin' or having an idea 'so good that it shone in her mind like an oil-sleek sardine in a can'. It really made me smile! There were some obviously educational moments - like Rissa's interest in astronomy and Barney The Cat's trip to the library - but these never felt too heavy or out of place. I also enjoyed Haig's smart-alec interjections on the role of an author and the process of writing - they reminded me of William Goldman's The Princess Bride - though they sometimes felt a little self-conscious and I thought they'd probably fly way over a child's head.

The final verdict? Despite a slightly shaky start and a few tiny misfires, this was a clever and very warm story that would be perfect for children ages 9-12 or so, and could be read aloud to slightly younger children too. To me as an adult, it was pretty much a modern children's version of books like Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess and Kafka's The Metamorphosis (the latter of which is actually referenced at one point, to my delight). I think it'll be a real crowd-pleaser and a great book for kids (and their parents) to read over the school holidays - and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into Haig's adult novel The Radleys in the next few months!
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on 17 April 2012
I gave this to my 8 year old grandson without seeing it, on the strength of a newspaper review. He loved it. He is an intelligent advanced reader and has now lent me the book as he thinks I will like it. I have only just started and it seems really perfect for a cat lover of any age. It is not written in 'children's' language and I was immediately impressed by opening the book at random to be met with the word 'ceramic', a word not usually in a a child's vocabulary but easy for them to understand and remember.To Be A Cat
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I was so excited to read To Be A Cat by Matt Haig and fortunately, it lived up to all my expectations. To Be A Cat ticks all the boxes if you're looking for a book that's funny, action-packed and full of furry animals. The story takes place over a couple of days and features rapid chase scenes, amazing transformations and life-changing epiphanies. What more can one ask for? To Be A Cat was a really fantastic story; I finished it in one sitting.

Barney's life is not going well. He's being bullied by a horrible boy called Gavin Needle. Mrs Whipmire, the mean head teacher is constantly picking on him for things he didn't even do and there's been no sign of his dad for months. On top of all that, his mum's always rushed off her feet. All this leads Barney to wish for an easier life- like a cat's. Soon, Barney gets his wish, but will he live to regret it?

Though this story takes place over a couple of days, Barney learns a lot about himself in that short time. He learns so many important life lessons such as to be careful for what you wish for. Barney quickly realises that to be a cat isn't as great as he'd thought it would be- certainly not with Mrs Whipmire and Gavin Needle on his tail!

This book was really suspenseful. People aren't who you think they are.

To Be A Cat by Matt Haig had loads of great twists and turns. Children will love this book because it is full of humour, action and interesting interludes from the author. I was laughing throughout the story and I believe everyone will enjoy it immensely. I wholly recommend To Be A Cat. You must read it to find out if cats really do have nine lives.
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on 3 April 2012
Full of brilliantly dark and mischievous illustrations, this is a fast-paced, exciting story about how twelve-year-old Barney copes when he wakes up as a cat - and it's his worst enemy's cat!
With bullies, a head teacher-from-hell, and a missing Dad - poor Barney just wants to escape but life's not easy as a cat either. A fast, exciting story from the winner of the Gold Smarties Award.
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on 2 May 2012
My whole family have read this book and we all look at our cat a little bit differently now. My daughters read it first (11 & 7 yrs old) and they both loved it and nagged me until I read it too. Matt Haig has the ability to talk to children without patronising them, the language he uses is quite sophisticated, which is what children want. The book is about a boy called Barney Willow, a 12 year old boy who's not having the best of times; his dad has disappeared, he's being bullied at school and his evil headmistress hates him. He thinks his life would be much easier if he were a cat but soon finds out that's not the case.
The book is full of great characters; from his best friend Rissa, who lives on a barge and is 'bully-proof' to his evil headmistress, Miss Whipmire, who keeps her pencils in a cat's skull, as well as all the other cats he meets and his dog, Guster, a King Charles spaniel who seems to think he IS King Charles.
It appeals to children because it has cats and nasty boys who wet themselves and a woman who kills cats so that she can use their skulls to hold her pens in. As a parent I like that the book deals with bullying and fitting in and the overall theme of being happy with who you are is very subtle, the book doesn't preach at you, it is like Freaky Friday but with cats. I especially like how the author pops up every so often to have his say, something that would normally annoy me in a book, but in this case it works. In the last chapter he tells the reader that they are 'brilliant', something I think we should tell our children, and ourselves, every day. Well worth a read.
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on 30 July 2013
I did not realize when I bought this book that it was primarily aimed at children. Lucky me, because if I had I would not have bought it and would have missed out on a wonderful, funny, sad, gripping story. Haig is a very amusing writer and has a sharp eye for description, dialogue and one-liners. The `moral' lesson is there but it unfolds slowly and believably and hopefully one can embrace what the author is trying to say : be happy and confident about who you are now. Reading it makes you feel that it is OK to be an outsider. Plus it is great that the school bully gets a good putting down! I really enjoyed this book and recommend it all ages(9-65+).
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on 17 February 2013
Bought this for my 11 year old niece then I started reading it.
What a great book. It's very funny.
A great writer who is a fantastic storyteller!
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2015
This is a story with a moral – ‘be careful what you wish for’ – you may not like the outcome!

A little boy called ‘Barney Willow’ who’s unhappy with his lot in life; he has no dad, he’s bullied at school, has only one real friend, and is picked on by the head teacher, finds himself wishing to be a cat - a cat, who it seems to Barney to have the ideal life full of love and ‘petting’, and with no real responsibility. Trouble is, his wish starts to come true, but all is not as Barney anticipated when he meets with difficulties he had not foreseen...

This is an interesting story with plenty of twists and turns and a lot of suspense. We follow Barney’s life as a cat, and how he must find a way to become human again!

I really enjoyed this book, and it wasn’t over-long as so many are these days, and so none of its interest was lost. There’s plenty of fabulous illustrations too by Pete Williamson which only add to and enhance the read!

A great story with a great moral that will teach children to always settle for what they have and to be ‘yourself’!
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I've loved everything Matt Haig's written since discovering him through The Last Family in England, which is still in my all-time-favourites list. I need to tell you though that this book is quite firmly in the aimed-at-children bracket - large print, relatively simple language (but absolutely no talking down...). But I absolutely loved it, from the intro where the author - who butts into the story every so often, to wonderful comic effect - sets out seven magic things about cats. The gist of the story isn't new - Paul Gallico's Jennie particularly comes to mind, where a boy wakes up as a cat - but the treatment certainly is. Barney Willow is a wonderfully drawn, unhappy little boy, ignored, bullied, picked on, who wishes he could be a cat - and becomes one. The book is full of fantastic characters - his loyal friend Rissa, Guster the family King Charles spaniel who thinks he IS King Charles, the "swipers" (street cats), the evil bully Gavin Needle with the soft underbelly, the supremely evil Miss Whipmire who keeps her pencils in a cat's skull, and the amazing Terrorcat. It's a wonderful story of love, loyalty, humour, standing up to bullying and how being yourself is more important than anything. A wonderful read for children and adults alike.
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