July 13, 2012

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat

OTTOLINE AND THE YELLOW CAT by Chris Riddell (Harper Collins, 2007)
GENRE: Mystery
HONORS: None (Though Riddell has won various honors for his other work)

REVIEW: Ottoline Brown is a singularly impressive young lady - she is a mistress of disguise, solver of complex puzzles, collector extraordinaire and a formidable clever-plan maker. In Ottoline and the Yellow Cat, Ottoline and her best friend, Mr. Munro (a short individual with Cousin Itt hair who hails from a bog in Norway), set out to solve the mystery of disappearing dogs, but instead uncover a series of fiendish cat burglaries perpetrated by the Yellow Cat who is, appropriately enough, a yellow cat. Though the mystery is slight, the solving of it is entertaining to say the least. Ottoline is a thoughtful, independent protagonist, given to a whimsical seriousity, and yet she's also an entirely believable girl (though quite clever and capable, she misses her traveling parents terribly). Fantastic elements add to the story's charm, (a bear visiting from Canada lives in the laundry room of her building, cats and animals behave in human ways and her mom sends lovely postcards that imply that she already knows what Ottoline's been up to). Riddell's generously detailed illustrations fill in Ottoline's world with such charm and humor that one gets the sense that it's quite a fun place to live.

OPINION: Ottoline and the Yellow Cat is a lovely little book. Appropriate for tweens on the young side of adolescence (8-10 years old), it's themes of problem solving and independence are underscored with both visual and verbal charm. Though not for everyone, young fans of mystery and humor will very likely enjoy this quick little read, (and probably wish they had a Mr. Munro of their own).

IDEAS: A great suggestion for reluctant readers. The illustrations really flesh out the text and make the book feel almost like a very wordy comic (though with much more text). The conversational adds to the story's accessibility while the triumph and silliness of the climax more than rewards the reader's efforts.

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