Wednesday, December 29, 2021

If you don't understand Cat Kid, you don't grok Pilkey

Pilkey, Dav. Cat Kid Comic Club
December 1st 2020 by Graphix
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Li'l Petey (aka Cat Kid) has decided to run a drawing club for the tadpoles, offspring of the somewhat overly concerned Flippy. After the students opine that they don't have any ideas, can't draw, etc., their first assignment,is to write the stupidest comic ever and "fail" at writing. Of course, they come up with gems like graphic novels about "monster" cheese, a toothbrush who is a lawyer for dinosaurs, and other sketchily drawn, humorous stories. When they find that their classmates "failed at failing", a lot of creativity emerges. There are photo illustrated comic books of haiku, clay characters, felt collages, and lots of destruction, murder, and poop. Flippy isn't having it. He tells the group that they are inappropriate, and are no longer allowed to write about violent occurrences or use potty humor. Cat Kid, however, comes to their rescue and points out that Shakespeare uses all of those things, plus plenty of fart jokes, and many other adult writers do as well. Why can't kids' books have them? Flippy is still not pleased with ideas like Frankenfart vs. the Bionic Barf Bunnies from Diarrhea Land, and demands that the students produce work that is wholesome and uplifting. After a conversations with Nurse Lady, however, he tries to remain chill and let the students be creative without too many strictures. It's hard, but the group comes up with many clever and amusing ideas, not all of which involve poop. They learn that it's okay to learn by tracing drawings, that there are no set rules for the way books have to be, and that sometimes the best way to learn is to fail. 

Younger readers will find all of the fart jokes amusing, and definitely take away the message that it's okay to struggle with creativity. The thing I admired the most was Pilkey's determination to directly challenge teachers, librarians, and parents who have deemed HIS work inappropriate because of the violence and potty humor. If you aren't familiar with Pilkey's work, as well as with the challenges that it has faced, you might not understand the strong message. I'm not sure that younger students will quite understand, but middle grade readers will know enough about how adults feel about their reading materials that they will cheer on Cat Kid (and Pilkey's) message about creative freedom.

Aside from that, it was great fun to see the creative process of making a graphic novel explained and to see a variety of formats and storylines. I know that my students frequently have trouble coming up with ideas when they are assigned creative writing, and I loved Cat Kid's idea about writing down things that writers feel passionate about, and then making a story about a combination of those. The different formats are shown in a purposefully elementary style which was a fun change from Pilkey's normal style, and harks back to Harold and George's comics in Captain Underpants. I have to say that I did appreciate that the spelling was more uniformly standard in this book.

Pilkey has a loyal following even among 8th graders, so this book will need no recommendation from adult for kids to read it. If you have a young artist who wants some inspiration for their own work, you can't get an instructor any better than Cat Kid... and Dav Pilkey.
 Ms. Yingling

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