Review of the Day: Fashion Kitty
Fashion Kitty by Charise Mericle Harper.
Hyperion Paperbacks For Children.
Take a trip back in time with me to the halcyon days of 2005. A time when graphic novels for children were hardly as commonplace as they are today. Ah ’05. Whatta year. I remember it well. At the time, I was searching in vain for above par graphic novels for kids to add to my very short list of library-worthy titles. There really wasn’t much out there, but one name kept coming up over and over again. Something called “Fashion Kitty”. Being the kind of girl that I am, I took one look at the book’s sparkly cover, preference for all things pink, and use of the word “fashion” in the title, and promptly never thought of the book again. Until now. Recently my library purchased a large swath of graphic novels for young ‘uns and there, perched cheerily at the top of the pile, was Charise Mericle Harper’s creation. I circled it warily and thought it might be safe to just flip through idly and call it a day. Flipping, however, began and ended on page three where I read the following line: “The FIRST reason the Kittie family is unusual is that a cat having a mouse for a pet is similar to a human having a chocolate cake for a pet.” This sentence is immediately followed by the image of a boy leading a pink frosting-laden chocolate cake by a leash as he murmurs to it, “I love you, but I wish I could eat you!” I was hooked. I showed the book to my least graphic-novel-lovin’ colleague. She was hooked. Even if you are no fan of fashion, kitties, or even comics in general, “Fashion Kitty”, has the power to win over even the toughest of critics. Is it girly? Or lordy, yes. Is it fun? You bet your sweet bippy.
Right off the bat there are three things you need to know about the Kittie family. First of all, they own a pet mouse. Second, daughters Kiki and Lana get to pick out all their own clothes. Third, “The Kittie family knows the secret identity of Fashion Kitty.” Fashion Kitty, as it happens, was born out of a potentially tragic accident involving a birthday wish, a rickety shelf, and some fashion magazines. From out of that toxic threesome emerged none other than Fashion Kitty herself with such super-powered elements as the “Tail of comfort”, “Supersonic feet” and a brain that can “mix and match hundreds of outfits in a second”. Thus, mild-mannered Kiki Kittie is now Fashion Kitty when she detects that someone is moving towards a fashion disaster. Take, for example, poor Mary Jane who was about to believe popular and cruel Priscilla Persian that everyone the next day would be wearing polka-dotted shorts over their pants. In the end, Kiki has a new lot (and outfit) in life, Mary Jane is redeemed, and Priscilla Persian gets what’s coming to her.
Obviously the first thing people are going to say when they see “Fashion Kitty” is, “Boy, that looks a lot like the ‘Babymouse’ books, doesn’t it?” We’re living in such a graphic novel-starved world that when two books involve a palette of pinks alongside an anthropomorphized heroine, we immediately equate the one with the other. “Babymouse”, I should point out, is very different from her feline brethren. Where “Fashion Kitty” involves an actual superhero, the closest “Babymouse” ever gets to hero-dom is in her dreams. “Fashion Kitty” is wish-fulfillment and “Babymouse” is far more realistic. That doesn’t make “Kitty” any less fun to read, however. I mean, Harper’s sense of humor is really the book’s saving grace. It would be remarkably simple to create a vapid fashion-entranced graphic novel for little girls without a drop of humor or sense of its own innate silliness. Harper’s title, however, never takes its subject matter seriously. We’re talking flying fashion-conscious cats here, people. So when Harper includes a montage of some boys who don’t give “two hoots” about what they wear, you know it’s gonna be good. I was also rather charmed by young Lana Kittie, who is the antithesis of her older sister’s good sense. Lana is only four, so if she wants to wear stocking around her next, underpants on the outside of her pants, or three skirts in a row she’s perfectly entitled to do so and it doesn’t matter a jot.
Oddly enough, in spite of its September 2005 publication date, you won’t be seeing the sequel to this book (entitled, “Fashion Kitty Verses the Fashion Queen”) until May 2007. Most peculiar. Random House has been churning out the “Babymouse” books at least every 6 months. I wonder if Hyperion will try to follow suit when they see how profitable such a series might be. If you haven’t yet found yourself with a copy of “Fashion Kitty” on hand, definitely consider giving it a glance. A fun GN and a rollicking good time.
Also mentioned in MotherReader's piece on Extreme Booktalking.