I had a special request to review this mostly true book by the authors, Lexi and Susan Haas. the year of the buttered cat is a middle grade book about Lexi’s deep brain stimulation surgeries (DBS) and yes, a buttered cat is in the book.
Lexi has kernicterus, a condition caused by severe newborn jaundice. Those of you who have read my blog for a while or know me, also know that I have kernicterus due to the same medical error of untreated newborn jaundice. I met Lexi and her mom, Susan, in 2010 when my family and I were exploring the possibility of DBS for me after hearing about Lexi’s first DBS surgery when she was only 7-years old.
I was just 12-years old when we went on our roadtrip to Richmond, VA, and it is a bit of a blur. I remember meeting with Dr. Shapiro who is featured in the year of the buttered cat. I remember meeting Lexi and Zach, another kid with kernicterus. I remember a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night and having to be carried down 3 flights of stairs by my dad and sitting outside in the hot night air after a long day of medical appointments. This is when we found out that I had visual tracking issues which made a lot of things make sense as far as accessibility and reading.
So, back to the book, it’s written from the perspectives of a 5-year-old and 13-year-old Lexi. I loved the 13-year-old Lexi because she was going through intense stuff. I think her voice really came through in those chapters and I related much more to her as the 13-year-old. I think the reason for this is because I was 14-years old when I was going through my first Deep Brain Stimulation experience. Here are some of the reasons why I loved Lexi’s 13-year old perspective:
- She really got to me because Susan and Lexi captured a human story. I think most people face tough times during their lives and Lexi’s experiences are important for young people to read about as they may be facing their own tough times. Reading about how Lexi and her family bring courage, humor, and resilience to the intensity of multiple surgeries, medical procedures, and just living everyday life gives young people a glimpse into experiences they may not be aware of or think about.
- Lexi is dealing with a surgery about to happen. I’ve been there. I’ve been poked with needles countless times over the years. I’ve gone through DBS surgeries and one removal of DBS after a severe surgical site infection along with countless other surgeries. Lexi captures the hospital and medical story so well and honestly.
- There is an interesting element of the ticking clock because it built suspense and wanting to know how it’ll all turn out for Lexi. I love this trope in fiction and I am here for it.
This book is worth a read, especially, for young people in middle grades. For those of us who may have difficulties in communicating because we have cerebral palsy or use communication devices or whatever, middle grades and high school can be really hard and lonely. Young people move fast and don’t often take the time to wait for us to type out what we want to say (adults often have a difficult time with this, too). This book brings Lexi’s thoughts, ideas, and voice to the table. We need to hear more voices from those of us with disabilities to learn about life as we know it. Our words, our voices, and our stories matter.
- Pre-order The Year of the Buttered Cat
- Penny Candy Books – The Year of the Buttered Cat website
- Lexi’s website
- Promo YouTube video with Susan and Lexi Haas
- Learn more about Kernicterus from National Organization for Rare Disorders
Here are photos from that trip to Richmond in 2010 when Lexi and I met. We met our friend Zach there, too. We all look 10 years older now!