The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs

by Cylin Busby, Illustrated by Gerald Kelley 

Published February 2nd 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

5 Stars

Synopsis: In the tradition of Poppy, the Warriors series, and other beloved animal adventures comes the swashbuckling tale of a brave cat on the high seas.

Captain Natick does not want to take a kitten on board his ship when it sets sail in 1847, but his daughter convinces him that the scrawny yellow cat will bring good luck. Onto the ship the kitten goes, and so begins the adventurous, cliff-hanging, lucky life of Jacob Tibbs. At first, Jacob’s entire world is the ship’s hold, where the sailors heave their heavy loads and despicable, long-tailed rats scurry in the darkness. But before long, Jacob’s voyage takes him above deck and onward to adventure. Along the way, Jacob will encounter loss and despair, brave thunderous storms at sea, face down a mutiny, survive on a desert island, and above all, navigate the tricky waters of shipboard life and loyalties.

My Review: The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs is recommended for children/middle grades, but as an adult, I also enjoyed this book. It is an historical adventure about a packing ship and it’s journey told from the perspective of a ship’s cat in the mid 1800s. It is a very realistic story and the author does not mince words. He tells about life on a packing ship including the bad situations that occurred during this time. The story moved along very well with this reader wanting to read just one more chapter before putting the book down to do other things that had to be done.

Jacob Tibbs was born to Mrs. Tibbs, the proud ship cat of the Melissa Rae. He was the runt of the litter and also had white paws, which superstition says is bad luck and that the cat would be a useless “ratter”The writing is smooth . Because of this, his brothers and sisters were snapped up by other ship captains, but Jacob was never selected. Melissa, the daughter of Captain Natick, convinced her father to keep Jacob so he became the second ship’s cat aboard the Melissa Rae. He wanted to become a great ship’s cat like his mother and would not give up trying to learn how to rat. It turns out that he also had the gift of warning the ship about coming storms. In the story, there are dangerous storms causing injury and death, harsh conditions, nasty sailors, talk of mutiny, being set adrift in a small boat and more. Jacob sticks with his captain through it all and saves his life more than once. He has a difficult time figuring out humans but he seems to come through with the proper decisions.

The other characters, both main and supporting all add much to the story. From sailors who will pet Jacob one day and then threaten to throw him overboard the next, to a captain trying to do the right thing but also feeling the pressure of turning a profit with each voyage. The characters all show their own personalities; some are greedy and selfish, while others stand up for their beliefs and would rather save lives than make money. In the end, Jacob comes out ahead and with his Captain thrilled that he decided to keep “the runt”. There are a few beautiful black and white illustrations scattered throughout the book to give just a little idea of what the action might look like.

The theme of the story is Tibbs coming into his own from kitten to juvenile, while proving his worth and loyalty to the ship, crew and especially the captain. The idea of loyalty and doing what is right is also apparent. This book is right up there with children’s classics such as Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson in my mind. I absolutely loved Jacob Tibbs, Captain Natick, Moses and Chippy and thing they are worthy characters for any story. I would definitely recommend this book to public, school, class and family libraries. It is wonderful.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.