Author: Lloyd Alexander
Publisher: Puffin Modern Classics
My mother first introduced Lloyd Alexander to my brother and one summer, in an effort to help the baby-sitter tame us. My brother loved (ney, devoured!) Alexander’s series The Chronicles of Pyridian but they never caught my fancy. I read all his histories of bold and interesting young women, set in exotic places, like Illyria and Egypt. Time Cat was the only one we both loved. Where most of Alexander’s stories are based in ancient worlds and long-lost times — richly drawn and easily entered into by the reader — Time Cat was a little different.
In Time Cat, a young boy excitedly discovers that his cat can talk, and not only talk, but time travel. So Jason (boy) and Gareth (cat) adventure together through time, starting in Egypt, Roman Britian, St. Patrick’s Ireland, Renaissance Italy (where they stay with the Da Vinci family), Imperial Japan, 16th Century Peru–as it is just being colonized by the Spanish, The Isle of Man, 17th Century witch-hunting Germany, and end up in America at the time of the Revolution. (Amazingly, they always understand the languages, and arrive in the proper clothes–but then, what’s more amazing than a time travelling cat.)
The story is exciting in itself–they have lots of adventures both silly and thrilling. But Alexander’s attention to historical details ultimately turns the book into a real treasure. When I read it I knew who St. Patrick was, and the story of the Revolutionary War, and had heard of witch hunts, and seen art by Leondaro Da Vinci–so some things were quite familiar. But having Jason live in those worlds made them more alive to me. Jason is the one who encourages Patrick to leave the farm and go back to England (where he eventually becomes a Priest, and bring Christianity to Ireland). Leonardo’s has one chance to convince his father he can be an artist–and so he paint’s Gareth poised to attack. And as to the worlds I didn’t know, or that were uncomfortably foreign (Peru, Japan, Egypt), Jason and Gareth’s side-by-side matter-of-fact attitude in each new place left those worlds a little less strange and a little more real.