The best books for young readers featuring a cat sidekick who is secretly the main character

The Books I Picked & Why

Sabriel

By Garth Nix

Book cover of Sabriel

Why this book?

Much like my own cat, Mogget is actually a primordial monster trapped in the body of a cat by magic, and for every time he does something deceptively cute, he also does something to remind you that he is one unsupervised moment away from going on a blood-soaked rampage.

In addition to understanding that cats are equal parts eldritch horrors and cool little buddies, Garth Nix also invented one of the most truly original magic systems that I’ve encountered.


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The Lives of Christopher Chant

By Diana Wynne Jones

Book cover of The Lives of Christopher Chant

Why this book?

Diana Wynne Jones understands fundamentally that cats rule and they are also little jerks. Throgmorten is a sacred cat from a temple in another world, which is a very cat lifestyle, and he spends the whole book spitting and scratching and biting people, which is the singularity of focus that I strive for in my life. Diana Wynne Jones is also not afraid to directly transcribe cat noises, by which I mean Throgmorten says “WONG” a lot, which is such an objectively weird way to describe a cat’s yowl until you actually hear a cat make that sound and realize, “Oh wow, yeah, it does sound like he’s saying ‘WONG.’” I’m not saying authors who exclusively say that cats “meow” are cowards, but. I’m not not saying that.


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In the Hand of the Goddess: Volume 2

By Tamora Pierce

Book cover of In the Hand of the Goddess: Volume 2

Why this book?

The thing about a pet finding its way into your life at exactly the right time is that it does kind of feel like a divinity sent you a little helper to keep your life from completely falling apart while you are pretending to be a boy so you can become a knight or while you are on a writing deadline and very stressed out, which are two challenges that are equally difficult and noble.


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Tamsin

By Peter S. Beagle

Book cover of Tamsin

Why this book?

Mr. Cat is a ride-or-die. Mr. Cat walks the line that all cats do in the real world, in that he doesn’t actually have magic powers and he can’t actually talk, he is at the end of the day a little animal that lives in Jenny’s house, but also he would bite a ghost without hesitation. It’s Peter S. Beagle’s complete mastery of voice and tone that enable Jenny and Mr. Cat to walk that line so effortlessly. Because the fantastical is grounded so deeply in the real world, the stakes feel so high that I first read this book in one breathless sitting, afraid to look away. 


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No One Noticed the Cat

By Anne McCaffrey

Book cover of No One Noticed the Cat

Why this book?

Anne McCaffrey is famous for writing about dragons, but we really shouldn’t discount her cats. Reading this little novella, you get the distinct impression that McCaffrey condensed an entire high fantasy court drama into seventy-one pages because her real thesis is, “What if a cat was really cute?” Reading this book at a formative age also made me think about various creative applications of poisons well into adulthood, which has not made me more normal, but has made me more fun at parties. 


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