Time Cat

Star summary: 

3- Solid morals & eternally valuable themes. Writing full of wisdom. One memorable main character (Gareth), and several memorable minor characters.

Summary: Jason's cat, Gareth, reveals to him the secret of cats' "nine lives." They can visit 9 different lives; any place, any century. He takes Jason with him. Egypt, Rome, Britain, Ireland, Japan, Peru, The Isle of Man, Germany & the almost-independant British Colony in the Americas all are visited. In Egypt (2700 BC) they teach the Pharaoh that shouting orders doesn't work on cats, and that people don't like it either. They march with Roman legionaries through Gaul to Britain in 55 BC. On the way, Jason learns the importance of practice, and a Celtic warrior learns the joy of letting Gareth choose his own games. Ireland in 411 is their next visit, where they meet a young Welsh slave named Sucat, or Patrick, and with his help escape a power-hungry druid. Patrick vows to return to Erin and bring with him Truth that will cast out the "serpents" of ignorance and hate. Japan in 998 is surprisingly comfortable, at least for the young Emperor. Jason, Gareth and six kittens open his eyes to his people's needs, and help the young man become the leader his country needs, instead of a sheltered boy under his uncle's thumb. In 1468 Italy they meet the boy Leonardo da Vinci, and realize just how much he learns by watching and wondering. Their next host, Don Diego, is a lackluster soldier in Peru (1555), but has the keen observer's eyes of Leonardo. The two visitors help Don Diego realize that his true calling is in negotiating peace, not soldiering, and see a man transformed by finding work fit to him. An ocean and 33 years later brings them to a young Manxwoman who is convinced of her own ugliness. Jason uses young tail-less Manx kittens to show her that beauty is within all creation- even herself. Boy & cat barely escape a witch-hunt in 17th century Germany, then finish their journey on the eve of American Independence in Boston, 1775. They witness firsthand the cost of freedom-- the freedom humans crave as much as cats.

A wonderful overview of world history!

Cautions? None.

Themes? The uselessness of ordering cats about, or trying to demand that they be anything but themselves. This applies to people, too. Related is the theme of freedom. The usefulness of watching and waiting. The need for rulers to know and care for their people.

Bottom line? Each person (and cat) has innate talents and worth, and should be free to live them out. Helping them perfect and use those gifts is far better than trying to make them into what you would have them be. So much can be learned by watching, and so much can only be achieved through patience.

Talking points:
-- Each chapter can be used to springboard into its time period, culture, and even famous people (St. Patrick, Leonardo da Vinci, for instance).
-- Understanding is better than gold. What did Sayri Tupac mean?
--Discuss: "Trying to make someone do what they aren't really good at is foolish. [...] We cats always knew it. How do you think I'd feel if I had to dress up in armor and drill soldiers all day?" "That's silly," said Jason. "You wouldn't let anybody do that to you in the first place." "Because I know I'm a cat,," Gareth said. "Don Diego's just found out he's a man." (Chapter 13).

Appropriate audience: Reading- Grade 3 & up. Listening- age 5 & up.

Stars: Plot- each time is visited only briefly, barely allowing us to meet characters, though Don Diego & Princess Diahan do stand out. There are recurring themes, but no real overriding plot. Characters- only Jason & Gareth are fleshed out, and Gareth is certainly memorable, but even the characters met in passing are endearing. I'm not sure if it's intentional that the rulers (Neter-Khet, Miliucc, Ichigo) and their encounters with Boy & Cat resemble each other so much. Writing- gentle, full, accessible while still rich, Alexander's first book already showed promise. Eternal perspective- Patrick is the only described Christian, and his faith in this book is more about education (Truth), not an intimate relationship with a life-changing Person. However, the book is full of nuggets of truth, and brings its themes home to its readers simply and effectively. I love the time-travel motif, which allows readers to taste so many cultures and times. A great "gateway" book into historical fiction!

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