I knew we had a hit on our hands when my 8-year-old started giggling before we even left the library. After watching him reread it five times in a row, I just had to know what was so enthralling about this book. I was completely taken in by the gorgeous art, the humor, and the sweet story of a girl who spends her summer taking care of her neighbor’s cats and oh maybe saving the world.
Katie’s best friend is going to camp for the whole summer. Bethany promises she’ll write every day, but Katie is determined to earn enough money to pay for the last week of camp. Her first few tries at jobs don’t go so well but then she lands a job catsitting for Ms. Lang in Apartment 5B. Sure, the cats are… odd…. and there’s so many of them (217!) and it’s weird that Ms. Lang goes out every night, but it’s good money. But as the summer goes on, Katie starts to suspect that all may not be what it seems.
There’s a great mix of gags, both verbal and sight ones, plenty to keep a smile on your face. Plus, so many cats! Are there actually 217 cats in this book? I honestly don’t know, because I kept getting distracted around 100. The names and areas of expertise are hilarious (bath bombs?? and what does “splitting up teams” mean???). But it’s also balanced by a nuanced understanding of a tween growing up, about drifting apart from friends and finding new ones, about how the way the world seems as a kid isn’t exactly the whole picture. There’s a lot of overt messaging about animal rights and abuses, but there’s also a lot about economic disparities which I thought was handled more subtly but very well. Katie and her mom can’t afford to send her away for a summer’s worth of camp, and even one week seems like an insurmountable amount at times. Bethany’s mom offers to pay for it, but Katie’s determined to earn the money herself, even if it means having to outsmart some couch-thieving cats. Watching Katie figure out how to handle a bunch of furry menaces was adorable, entertaining and, in some ways, inspiring.
The artwork is gorgeous, full color and full of details, and perfectly reflects the balance of humor as well as the greater storyline. Katie’s personality shown through in every panel. The cats, of course, are absolutely amazing and as far as I can tell all different. The color work is absolutely exquisite, and there were times when I just sat and looked over a page for several minutes, just catching all the details.
Overall, highly recommended to anyone who loves graphic novels, middle grade or otherwise!