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The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield Hardcover – October 3, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6–As Marciano is descended from Ludwig Bemelmans, so might Alexander Baddenfield be descended from Madeline's nemesis-turned-friend Pepito “The Bad Hat.” Alexander, however, never sees the error of his ways. He is thoroughly bad for his entire nine lives–a circumstance he engineers by arranging for the transplantation of eight lives from his cat to himself. The rashness of youth combines with the recklessness of a person with many lives to lose as Alexander experiments wildly with the third rail of the subway system, the murky waters and treacherous currents of the Hudson River, an Icarus-style flight launched from the Empire State Building, an extremely brief stint as a matador, and more. When Alexander nears his final demise, he becomes overly cautious, immuring himself in his castle and avoiding any possible brushes with mortality. Naturally, that doesn't work, and the world is left a better place. The amusing, if macabre, premise is abetted by Blackall's slightly creepy gray and black-toned illustrations, in which hourglasses, the Grim Reaper, and funeral ribbons are recurring motifs. It's great to see Marciano enlarging his scope and good fun to see him partnered with Blackall.–Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

In a departure from the Madeline series created by his grandfather, Marciano explores the good-natured fun of bad children. Alexander lives in a castle in Manhattan and is the last of a long line of Baddenfields. Because the Baddenfields are cursed with dying in “grisly and poetically justified ways,” Alexander dreams of dramatic ways to cheat death. He employs a Dr. Moreau–like surgeon to remove nine lives from a cat and surgically implant them inside of him. Reminiscent of Lemony Snicket, with occasional big words meant to joyfully obfuscate, the slim story bounces after Alexander as he pushes his lives to the limit, flying like Icarus, playing with a python, and bullfighting as a matador, until he has only one life left. Winterbottom, from a long line of Winterbottoms who have served Baddenfields, adds to the droll suspense as he encourages Alexander to use his last chance at life to become good. But who is he kidding? Blackall’s black-and-white sketches, with nods to Edward Gorey, heighten the gothic humor. Deliciously wicked. Grades 4-7. --Angela Leeper

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (October 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670014060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670014064
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,791,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Bemelmans Marciano is the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the original Madeline books. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lauren David Peden on October 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my 9-year-old niece, who reads several grades above the standard reading level. Unfortunately, I was unable to give her the book as a quick read revealed a plot in which a young boy trades lives with his cat in order to get nine lives, but rather than having nine fun or interesting adventures, he devises nine ways to kill himself (!), with some horrible and ghoulish descriptions:

"Being dead is cool!" He touches the third rail and says "That was mad cool! How can I die next?" He then falls from a great height "and smashed skull-first into a brick wall," is killed by a python and then gored by a bull. "This, his fifth death, was *horrible*. The bull took a victory lap around the stadium as Alexander remained skewered in agony." And it continues, complete with illustrations!

I'm a huge fan of the Madeline series and love Sophie Blackall's "Missed Connections" illustrations but this book bears no resemblance to either the author or artist's previous work and it certainly isn't suitable for kids (even those 10 and above) as it promotes suicide and glorifies death (versus the fun-sounding "outrageous feats" described in the Amazon write-up). And yes, there's a moral at the end of this story, but it takes too long to get there and is waaay too gruesome leading up to it.

Not sure who in the publishing house thought this was a good idea, but a children's narrative that talks about how "cool" it is to touch the third rail or throw yourself off a tall building is just asking for trouble. Thanks but no thanks.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Binkerd on October 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a YA novel, and I know some people see that as a stigma, but just because something is aimed at younger readers doesn't mean it isn't worthy of the attention of older ones-just look at The Chronicles Of Narnia, The Hobbit, Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, D.J. MacHale's Pendragon series, or The Hunger Games. Of course, the opposite is also true. Just because something is aimed at younger readers doesn't mean it is worthy of anyone's attention-just look at Twilight or its many clones.

The Baddenfield family (and all of it's branches across the world) has earned a reputation for villainy. From buying Manhattan from the Indians for a handful of trinkets to chopping down the Washingtons' cherry tree and blackmailing young George to take the fall, at the root of every evil deed or disaster the world has known has been a Baddenfield. The one redeeming factor in the history of this ill-fated clan is their tendency to die young, with their deaths reeking of poetic justice. Alexander Baddenfield is the last remaining Baddenfield the world over, orphaned at a young age on a hunting expedition/family reunion that wiped out the entire rest of the clan in a series of poetically just accidents. Alexander is raised by his caretaker, Winterbottom, himself the last in line of a long family who have through the ages tried (and failed) to prevent their Baddenfield masters from meeting their untimely demises. Winterbottom is determined to finally beat the family curse, and so has spent years keeping Alexander away from anything remotely dangerous. Until, that is, Alexander one day has a "Great Idea" and sets out to find a doctor who can transplant the eight extra lives from his cat into Alexander himself.
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By S. Shamma on November 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
So I read this in about two hours tops. A YA novel about the last boy in the Baddenfield line, a family so depraved and so bad, that people are delighted when they die. A family, because of its extreme depravity, has a tendency of dying young.

Alexander is raised and taken care of by Winterbottom, who is also the last in line of a family who - throughout history - have tried and failed miserably, to look after their Baddenfield masters and attempting to prevent their untimely deaths. Now Winterbottom is adamant about beating that family curse, and is therefore paranoid about absolutely everything, creating all sorts of rules that young Alexander is to follow and doing all that he can to keep Alexander away from danger. But then Alexander, who has always been fearless especially of his own death, has the absurd idea of transferring all his cat's 9 lives onto him, so he won't ever need to worry about dying again.

Alexander being the Baddenfield that he is, however, abuses his lives, and ends up dying in the most horrid and gruesome ways. Upon his last life, he becomes more paranoid than Winterbottom ever was, so paranoid that he coups himself up in his home and refuses to eat, drink or do anything but lie down in his room. He becomes so frail and his immune system so weak, that he ends up dying from an allergy he developed to his cat who was with him in the room.

Poetic justice? I believe so.

I did not particularly enjoy this book. And I did not particularly like it at all. I read it in 2 hours, because it is a fast and short read, but in truth, there was very little that kept me going besides my own determination to want to finish the book. I do like some factors in it, I did appreciate the lessons the book attempted to give, and for that I gave it 2 stars.
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