Book review: I, Cosmo and My Life as a Cat by Carlie Sorosiak

ELS librarian Samantha falls head over paws in love with Carlie Sorosiak’s middle-grade novels, I, Cosmo and My Life as a Cat.

Are you more of a cat person or a dog person? While I personally think there’s only one answer to this (both, always both), Carlie Sorosiak’s novels, I, Cosmo and My Life as a Cat, will delight fans of either species. Sorosiak’s first middle-grade novel, I, Cosmo, is narrated by Cosmo, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever. As the oldest member of his family (in human years), Cosmo feels duty bound to protect his humans, especially 12-year-old Max. When Max’s parents begin to argue, Max comes up with a plan to keep the family together. He and Cosmo will enter a dance contest and show his parents what a great team they make. To help Max, Cosmo will put aside his aching legs and fear of the dog next door, and learn how to truly dance.

Funny, warm-hearted and endlessly lovable, I, Cosmo is a sensitive depiction of family life and the bond that can develop between humans and animals. It will have special resonance for anyone who has ever had the privilege of growing up alongside a dog.

In her latest novel, My Life as a Cat, Sorosiak’s hero is an alien being who mistakenly lands on earth in the body of a cat. Rescued from a storm by 11-year-old Olive, Leonard (as Olive names him) must somehow travel thousands of miles to his original pick-up point – Yellowstone National Park – or risk being stuck on earth as a mortal cat. As a cat that is really an alien (but who really wants to be a human park ranger), Leonard is a delightful character. His uneasy adoption of cat-like behaviour, including the hacking up of hairballs, alongside some decidedly uncatlike behaviour, such as sporting a nifty yellow raincoat, add a gentle humour to the story. Like Leonard, Olive is a fully-realised character, her oddness, intelligence and bravery making her a true friend and champion to Leonard. Sorosiak captures how it feels to be lonely, whether that’s the loneliness of a solitary child or the loneliness of an alien, new to the world:

I was still getting used to the unsettling feeling of being alone. Bodies can be useful, but they’re also a barrier. Earth had so many barriers. And I missed the comfort of knowing that the hive was there, always there – a part of me as I was a part of then. All of us together, never lonely. (My Life as a Cat, p. 73)

Although My Life as a Cat explores deep themes, the writing remains accessible, with the same sweetness, openness and integrity as its characters – human and alien alike.

In short: As well as making ideal books to read for pleasure, I, Cosmo and My Life as a Cat can also be included in topics centring on family life and building empathy. For many of us, Cosmo and Leonard will be dear friends for years to come.

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