Growing up I adored Lloyd Alexander for the Prydain Chronicles and the Vesper Holly series. Fun side note, I suggested Vesper as a name for our second daughter because of loving Vesper Holly and how well Eva Green carried it in Casino Royale but it was nixed by my SO.
Time Cat floated around in my awareness but for some reason I never picked it up. Perhaps because the copies in my library had an atrocious cover. The one on the right would definitely have captured my imagination more. Fast forward several decades and my mom grabbed a copy of Time Cat when the library put it in their book sale and then gave it to us because she knew I liked the author. We treasure cats in our house and when needing a new book to read aloud at bed time, I decided it was time (ha ha) to give it a chance.
After a particularly vexing morning, Jason is shut up in his room feeling very sorry for himself. Gareth, his cat, is there to comfort him and decides now is the time to let Jason in on a little secret. Cats don’t have nine lives, only one, but they have the ability to visit nine different lives in any time or country. And thus begins their adventures through time.
They visit Egypt: 2700 BC, Rome and Britain: 55 BC, Ireland: 411 AD, Japan: 998 AD, Italy: 1468, Peru: 1555, The Isle of Man: 1588, Germany: 1600, and America: 1775. In some times and places, cats are revered. In others, cats are unknown and Gareth is unique. In one unfortunate visit, cats are misunderstood and feared. With each stop, Jason both shares his knowledge of cats with the people he meets and, through Gareth, learns even more about cats than he did before.
Time Cat is full of little bits of sage wisdom, often wrapped up in cat analogies. From the way he writes about them it’s clear that Lloyd Alexander was a great lover and studier of cats. In the end, Jason and Gareth return safely home from their journeys. Jason comes to realize how he has changed from the experience and as a result taken a step closer towards growing up.
This is a lovely book that my daughters and I enjoyed. They particularly liked the part in Japan where Gareth teaches kittens how to be cats. The twelve year old was delighted when she figured out who it was Jason and Gareth meet in Italy before the book tells you. Published a year before The Book of Three, first book in the Prydain Chronicles, there is a girl in Time Cat, Diahan, that strikingly resembles Eilonwy in both behavior and appearance. It makes me wonder if Diahan was an inspiration for Eilonwy.
I’ll wrap up this review with my favorite quote from the book and our kitty boy, Sosuke.
Some animals are good at some things,” Jason explained, “and some are good at others. Cats are good at being cats, and that’s enough.”