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The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano

Always looking on the dark side of life? Reviewer MaryAnne Locher says you’ll find that with The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield.

Cover art for The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano with illustrations by Sophie Blackall
The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano with illustrations by Sophie Blackall, Viking, 2013.

If you’re looking for a book with a happy ending, one where the protagonist learns a lesson or has personal growth, this may not be the book for you. However, if you like to read about things on the darker side of life, The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield might be the perfect book for you.

This is the story of the last in a long line of miserable bullying Baddenfields, as well as the only remaining servant in the kind and caring lineage of Winterbottoms.

We’ve all heard the rumor that says cats have nine lives, right? Who would ever think to test that theory? One very horrible rotten boy, that’s who. To make things worse, Alexander uses his own cat Shaddenfrood in his experiment. With the help of a mad scientist, Dr. Krastenenif, Alexander has the nine lives of his cat transplanted into his own body!

It would seem that nine lives would be sufficient to last well, nine lifetimes, and for any normal person they would. Not so for Alexander. Not even under the guidance of his faithful servant, Winterbottom. The boy was so reckless, so disobedient, and so foolish as to think himself invincible, that he used up his nine lives in less time than you or I would use just one.

Written by author John Bemelmans Marciano, The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield (Viking, $16.99; eBook, $10.99, ages 10 and up) will delight readers who love Lemony Snicket or who have an appreciation for grim humor. The black and white pictures by illustrator Sophie Blackall, scattered throughout the 135 page book, complement the contrast between darkness and light, evil and good, and Baddenfields and Winterbottoms.

This book comes with a warning to all readers about one-third of the way through, marked by a skull and crossbones. It reads: “You are about to embark on a tale that recounts the sometimes gruesome deaths of a young boy, and his not always pleasant rebirths.” It says more than that, something about “enjoying the story so far” and “being made of sterner stuff,” but I think you get the idea. In my opinion, this book is bad to the bone, and I mean that in the best way possible.

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    1. Thanks, Danielle. Hard to believe that J. B. Marciano also has been writing the Madeline books, carrying on his grandfather’s work. Blackall is a terrific artist.

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