Old Favorites: Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander

Do you ever wish you could travel through time? Visit different times and meet famous people like Tutankhamun, Queen Elizabeth the first or Leonardo daVinci? Maybe your great-grandparents? Watch famous events take place?

* * *

Jason had never really thought about time travel. He just knew, when he was sent to his room as punishment for punching his younger brother, talking back to his mother and a variety of other issues, that he wanted to escape. He’s miserable, and he mostly brought it on himself.

His cat Gareth is just dozing away on his bed when Jason throws himself down on it. Seeing Jason’s distress, Gareth climbs into his lap. Feeling sorry for himself, Jason strokes the cat and says (out loud) “I wish I had nine lives.”

And Gareth says “I wish I did too.”

A talking cat is not something you see every day! But Jason takes it completely in stride. He’s disappointed when Gareth explains that he actually doesn’t have nine lives, but then his cat shares a secret: he doesn’t HAVE nine lives, but he can VISIT nine lives.  That could be even better, Jason thinks. Then he asks another question…can Gareth bring anyone with him? The answer is yes…if Jason doesn’t mind taking some risks.

What are those risks? Well, Gareth and Jason won’t be able to talk in front of anyone, Jason will have no special protection, so whatever happens, happens. Jason can’t change his mind in the middle, and he has to stay with Gareth at all times, or risk not getting home again.  Jason accepts, and then boy and cat are off…for Egypt in 2700 B.C.

The rules are not as easy as they might sound, as Jason discovers. It’s not easy for a boy and a cat on their own. As they travel all over the world, having adventures, meeting famous people and discovering  civilizations from Ireland to Rome to Japan to Peru, Jason discovers that maybe getting home might be slightly more difficult than he had originally thought.

As Jason goes through time and space, he finds out more about himself…and also about history. In their travels, Jason and Gareth manage to meet and help several famous people and cats. (Gareth, you see, likes to travel to times when cats were important, or played an important role in some famous person’s life.) Would Leonardo DaVinci have become an artist if Jason and Gareth hadn’t made their way into his life? Maybe, maybe not. You’ll have to read and decide for yourself.

* * *

Originally published in 1963, Time Cat was the first book released by Lloyd Alexander, later famous for the Newbery Award-winning Prydain fantasy series, the Westmark adventure series and several other award-winning books, now a staple in classrooms across America. Because Time Cat is an early effort, it doesn’t receive as much notice, but all his trademarks that earned him such prestige and awards are definitely present.

This is a quick book to read, with lots of accurate information about each of the nine historical time periods Jason and Gareth visit. There’s a little humor, a little danger, and a lot of fun in each historical episode.

If you like cats, historical fiction or time travel in books, you should enjoy Time Cat. Recommended for kids in fourth to sixth grade, or to read aloud to kids slightly younger.  As always, if you’d like more information or other suggestions, ask one of our librarians!



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