Long Tail Kitty
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This is my new favorite book. I read it every night before bed.
Yes, I’m a 4-year-old (mentally, anyway). And I’m kind of kidding about that first part. But this is absolutely delightful and I’ve probably read it more than any sane person should have.
If you know of Lark Pien, it’s probably as the colorist for Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, but I was first introduced to her work through Spark Generators 2. There, she drew a story incorporating everything she loved — Lowly Worm from Richard Scarry’s books had a pizza party with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hello Kitty, Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad assorted X-Men characters and others. It was sweet and funny and having grown up with a lot of these same characters, something I could easily relate to.
Long Tail Kitty (Blue Apple Books, 2009) is an all-ages collection of stories about the titular long-tailed kitty and his friends. He encounters a grumpy bee in a field of flowers and a mouse skating on a frozen pond. He makes dinner for his friends and hangs out with three little aliens.
It’s all impossibly adorable, rendered by Pien in watercolors. Her style is cartoony and cute but still quirky and her stories are innocent without being cloying. It’s appropriate for little kids (and I think they’d love this this book and I demand you buy a copy for everyone you know who’s under age 8 right now) but also for grown-ups who appreciate whimsy and beautiful art.
The fold-out pages of Long Tail Kitty’s adventures with his three alien friends are amazing — dozens upon dozens of little scenes of activities like “Caterpillar Walk,” “Office Jobs” and “Pet the Pot Belly Pig” are lovingly presented. I think every time I look at these pages I notice something different. Pien obviously had fun drawing these pages and it’s impossible to not be charmed by them. That actually goes for this entire book. The childlike aesthetic is this book’s greatest strength.
It’s also a nicely designed book, with its cut-out cover and embossed title. It almost feels like an art book in some ways — even if you don’t read the stories (which I don’t know why you wouldn’t), Pien’s artwork is beautiful to look at. The bonus pages in the back with the Ed Emberley-esque “How to Draw Long Tail Kitty” feature are a fun touch (surprisingly, I haven’t followed the steps yet to draw my own Long Tail Kitty, but I really should).
I can’t promise you’ll read this book every night before bed, but I can promise that you should have this book in your collection.