Books for Babes provides info on the sort of comics that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. This week we recommend ‘Madame Cat’, out now from Life Drawn, an imprint of Humanoids Publishing.
by Stefania Rudd. We watch their YouTube videos. We share their memes. They have been the subject of countless works of art and stories going as far back as ancient Egypt. Heck, they even have a musical! Why are we so obsessed with cats? Author Lloyd Alexander said of these feline creatures, “Perhaps one reason we are fascinated by cats is because such a small animal can contain so much independence, dignity, and freedom of spirit. Unlike the dog, the cat’s personality is never bet on a human’s. He demands acceptance on his own terms.” Cats intrigue and inspire us, inspire me, and no matter how many times a new work centered around a cat comes out, I’m going to be on it like a kitty to a laser pointer.
Nancy Peña’s latest graphic novel, Madame Cat, is all about her daily, slice-of-life moments with her tortoise shell kitty, Madame. From the start of the book, when Madame first arrives in her new home all the way to the end where Madame is comfortably the queen of her castle, we’re privy to all the ups and downs of kitty ownership. The question then becomes: Who owns who here?
I’m sure as most who have a cat or two (or more—no judgement!) in their home will tell you, they aren’t the ones calling the shots. In a series of vignettes that are one to three pages each, we get a rich and full glimpse of Madame and her habits, needs, expectations, and demands. We know this because Madame can talk to her human, Nancy, and Nancy fully understands her. I do love how Peña actually verbalizes what Madame is saying through her sounds, thoughts, and body language. This is something every pet owner has done; maybe we use it to make sense of their behavior, or to give us some much needed humor and companionship in our day. Madame can be very snarky and dramatic, but she does show her vulnerability when she’s scared or relies on Nancy to take care of her, like when she climbs up a tree and can’t get down on her own.
Peña’s art style incorporates elements of whimsy to soften the overall feel of her book. In Madame Cat she uses simplicity with each vignette to draw attention to the parts she wants us to focus on. However, even the smallest of details that surround the page help enhance the given mood. The wrinkles in a pillow Madame is curling up on gives us that cozy feeling, while the sweat droplet on her face as the neighbor cat tries to end the life of the vacuum gives us a sense of urgency. Peña also keeps things simple with her coloring by using shades of blue to fill in her sketches. It adds a nice uniformity to the book, and a cool, casual quality that makes it unique.
Any cat lover will instantly gravitate towards and identify with Madame Cat. This book is on the new Humanoids imprint, Life Drawn, which focuses more on personal and political real-life narratives. This one is definitely all-ages friendly, and great even for younger kids who yet to learn to read. In her book, Nancy Peña allows us to explore our range of emotions with one of the world’s most popular pets. In fact, you can share this book with your kitty, if you like… as soon as she stops sleeping on it, or after she tires making biscuits on your tum, and curls up on your lap leaving you immobile for the next 37 minutes, or…
Life Drawn (Humanoids imprint)/$12.95/£9.99
Story and art by Nancy Peña.
Letters by Pierre Bisson.
Translation by Mark Bence.
This book contains daily life with a cat, and all the ups and downs that goes along with that.
Age range: 8+ (for those who can read on their own, but great for all ages).