Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield
by John Bemelmans Marciano
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
144 pages
Late Elementary+

The Baddenfields are the worst people around.  Alexander's ancestors have done horrible things: blamed Abe Lincoln for chopping down a tree, spiked Rip Van Winkle's drink so he would sleep, and even tried to kill the last remaining black pygmy rhinoceroses!  As last of the Baddenfields, Alexander has to live up to his family name!

And Alexander has a fantastic idea: why must only cats have nine lives?  He wants nine lives too!  He searches everywhere for a doctor that will transfer a cat's lives to him.  After going through the best doctors in the world, he finally finds Kranstenenif, a crazy scientist who specializes in grafting different animals together, like a rabbittortoise (a hare wearing the shell of a turtle).  When he hears of Alexander's strange request, he is ecstatic! He knows just the organ to transfer.  After a successful operation, Alexander now has eight lives (one being spent in the operation) to use doing what he does best: being bad.

After trying all the foods he couldn't eat before (he might be allergic), he comes up with a great idea: let's see if the third rail on the subway really is fatal!  After that, he kind of drowns, really drowns, flies through the air, and even enters a bull fight.  But it's never enough for him.  Alexander must be as bad as possible.

So, first of all, I won this as an advanced uncorrected proof on Goodreads.  Yay for winning books!  I was very excited to get this and to read it!

Next, I laughed so hard while reading this.  Alexander is pretty much the most spoiled, rotten little kid you can imagine.  But what happens to him is pretty funny.  The humor is kind of grim (spoiler, he does lose all his lives), so while funny, it's a certain type of funny that will appeal to some but not others.  It's kind of grim and graphic, since Alexander dies 9 times, so I will be careful who I recommend it to.

The background for the story was really well built.  The reader gets a look at Baddenfield genealogy, but it's not boring like a back-story can be occasionally.  But it's necessary for understanding the story and why Alexander is the way he is, plus what Winterbottom serves Alexander the way he does.   Good use of introducing the story.

I also liked the illustrations.  Totally adds to the story, and breaks up some heavy seeming text blocks.  They really help the reader increase their understanding of the characters and get a good sense of the humor of the story. 

Overall, this was a fun book, great humor, great characters and back-story, and good balance with the illustrations.  Will appeal to the kids that like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, or other books like that.  Kind of grim, so I will be careful who I recommend to, probably mostly boys that want a funny, scary book.

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