Monday, December 14, 2015

Scarlett: A Star on the Run by John Buller and Susan Schade, 2015

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Scarlett is a small, harlequin-colored cat and a huge movie star. And what's more—she talks! However, abused by her producer, she dreams of but one thing: escaping! So, when the occasion presents itself, she runs for her life. In the company of Trotter, a dog who's escaped the same torment, she is taken in by Mr. Bougnon. But with the noose getting tighter, will they manage to elude their terrible pursuers?
(176 pages)

This is definitely an interesting book. Its format reminds me a lot of Brian Selznick’s books, except where his books are told in alternating prose and drawings Scarlett is told via prose and comic strips. I don’t read a ton of comic books so I can’t say much about the quality of the artwork or anything like that, but I can vouch that they definitely create an interesting effect and seem well-done to an amateur like myself. The comics were really good for showing things (like, for example, the beginning where Scarlett escapes from the lab), and then the prose passages worked well for the scenes that involved more thinking and less action. The story might have worked okay if told purely in prose (though it might have been a little dry), but I don’t think it would have been possible to tell the story entirely in comic strips - it’s too complicated. You don’t get that strong flavor of Scarlett’s personality and opinions the way you do when you’re reading prose in first-person narrative by her.

I enjoyed the story, which reminded me a lot of the movie Bolt in some parts (escaped animals from a movie set, anyone?), but wound up taking a very different course toward the end. It's a rather disturbing book if you actually sit back and really, truly think about the revelations made toward the end, but Scarlett herself decides not to think about the implications, and hopefully most younger readers won't either. Set aside the sci-fi at the surface (oh come on, you know there has to be some explanation for the talking animals), and this is actually a very heartwarming book about a talking cat and dog, their search for a place in this world.

I'm not absolutely in love with Scarlett - it's a little different from my usual reads, and I think I'm just a little older than the usual audience with this one - but I did enjoy it, and I'm sure kids will even more. The unique format is a definite plus, the talking cat an instant draw, and the exciting, humorous story a great source of entertainment for any kid looking for a book at their level that contains more than just the usual cliche characters and rote plots. So go ahead, check Scarlett out: I can't promise you'll fall in love with it, but I can promise it will be a little bit different from anything else you've ever read.

Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy of this book at KidLitCon, which in no way affected my review.

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