Cyborg Cat is a clever story from medal-winning Paralympian Ade Adepitan that weaves fiction with fact. Adepitan was born in Nigeria and contracted polio at a young age which caused damage to his legs and culminated in a high-profiled wheelchair basketball career. These truths are woven into a thrilling narrative that is big on heart and is full of friendship and fun.
Ade loves hanging out with his friends and playing football. He is so good in goal with his cat-like skills that they have nicknamed him the 'Cyborg Cat’. Following an unfortunate incident in school, threatening graffiti starts appearing in the neighbourhood and no-one can work out exactly what is going on. What’s more, the graffiti seems to be having an unusual effect on Ade.
Ade’s leg is also starting to cause him more troubles. Infected with polio as a child, Ade’s left leg has been supported by callipers but as he is growing the callipers are becoming less effective and he is finding each day more of a struggle. A wheelchair could be the solution but Ade, and more significantly his father, are not keen on the idea. With things looking a bit grim it is up to the Parsons Road Gang to support their friend and uncover the mystery of the Night Spider.
A read that is full of can-do-attitude and a positive picture of how a disability can be a superpower. I really like that read that is true to its Nigerian roots. There are references to Ade’s past in Nigeria, stories from back home - even if some of them are a slight exaggeration of the truth, Nigerian cuisine and the occasional Nigerian phrase from his mother (don’t worry, English translations are provided).
Two of the important themes in the book are diversity and inclusion. Ade and some of his friends are BAME and Ade and Salim are both in wheelchairs. There are strong messages about friendship and how a group of friends will go to any lengths to help each other. As the Parsons Road Gang say, “We always stick together.” The book also explores the discrimination that people with disabilities face and is great for developing empathy and promoting anti-bullying. It also tackles the issues that Ade faces in his personal life as he transitions from callipers to a wheelchair and the social issues he has to deal with both at school and in the wider world.
Whilst this is work of fiction much of it is based on author Ade Adepitan’s own personal experiences as detailed in his author’s note at the back of the book. If you are not familiar with Adepitan it is well worth seeking him out on YouTube as there is an abundance of interesting videos featuring him.
A very accessible book for readers of 7+. The chapters are relatively short and whilst many of the pages are just text the read shouldn’t feel daunting. There are occasional black and white illustrations by Carl Pearce that help bring the characters to life.
Recommended for 7+.