Book

The Brave Little Kitten

Author: Dag Aris
Genre: Children 4-8
22 pages

Book Review

March 31, 2023

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4
(4/10)

So what are the problems with The Brave Little Kitten?

Three main areas bring the story down. The quality in the storytelling, the editing that has not been carried out and the illustrations. A good idea and a good story are not enough expecially when you catering to children. A chidren’s book always subconsciously becomes an example of how to write for a child and what is acceptable, a reason why my rating will always be more severe when it comes to those. What brings this book down is that there’s a lot of editing required, a lot of the story is expositional and declared as a set of facts set in linear time rather than described in a storytelling manner with events corroborating the facts. I have particularly come across the following issues than inhibited the enjoyment of the book.

The grammatical errors in The Brave Little Kitten

The pronoun for the cat needs to be either an “it”, a “he” or a “she” not the three of them, interchangeably used throughout the story. This is especially valid as the use of the pronoun is coming from a narrator and not from the boy. In addition, there is absolutely no point knowing the cat’s gender in this story as this does not serve the plot in any manner. Unfortunately, there are more flagrant grammatical errors than the confusingly varying pronoun for the cat. A few of these grammatical issues include “his feelings he had”, “a couple of weeks or month”, “Jacks heart sank and realized”, etc. I wish “little kitten” was explained so it did not feel so redundant.

The drawing style in The Brave Little Kitten

I have to admit that the illustration on the cover is 80% responsible for me choosing to read the book. So it has definitely played its role. The cover style is realistic and complete. But then, I opened the book and was utterly disappointed to see a different style altogether, nice but different, not the one I signed up for and it just felt like a broken promise. The style of drawing inside the book needs to correspond to the one on the cover that clearly attracts the viewer inside. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Saying that, Lucky is always fully, realistically, drawn and I feel there are so many elements to making the whole thing immersive, but it just does not come together well enough.

Illustrations in The Brave Little Kitten

Lucky in The Brave Little Kitten by Dag ArisBeyond the drawing style, the drawing content on a page needs to correspond to (yes, illustrate) the story on that page, and both should illustrate and reinforce the sentiment that the narrator is trying to convey. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. For example, there are no pictures showing the cat looking as weak, tiny and scrappy as the story’s description would suggest and even when described as such on a specific page, the illustration always show it looking fine. The illustrator does not seem to be set on the shape of the boy’s nose either.

The boy character

The child is a matter of fact caring human rather than a relatable person who would like the cat but would have to learn that liking and caring are different. The challenge eventually comes at the 4th chapter but it is unlikely that there would have been none at the start and the role of the mother should have been a lot more there as she understands what looking after another being truly means. It would have even been more interesting to see a closer bond between the boy and his mother as he truly started to understand this. The character is severely underdeveloped. For example, the mention of him having friends only comes in chapter 4 when the new challenges required by the story needs them. A good story telling would have introduced the friends idea from the outset, explaining for example that the boy took a different path than usual because his friend he normally goes back home with was absent that day.

No sense of growth or breakthrough

There is definitely a certain warmth that the book wants to convey but its style makes it hard to feel. But in a child’s story, both the journey and the destination play a role. There’s a linearity in the story that is more a matter of time than personal growth. A personal growth would have seen the child slowly breaking through the difficulties of caring for another being and growing in understanding and maturity. The cat could have been described as weak through actual illustrative words such as “it barely could carry its own weight” and such rather than just qualified as weak as a matter of fact and reader’s acceptance. Because there is no such things in the story, the reading child’s imagination and empathy are neither summoned nor engaged through a more descriptively evolutionary storytelling. The 4th chapter should never have been a separate chapter but a clue that runs through the story.

The mother’s role in The Brave Little Kitten

The lack of character development makes the mother in The Brave Little Kitten a mere token and it the missed opportunity is felt. She should and could have been the reason why the boy didn’t take the cat the first time, because he knew that he had to ask for permission. Instead there’s no reason given for him not taking the cat the first time. The mom could have had a far better use, enforcing rules such as the one above, explaining why things must be the way they should. She should have explained the implications of looking after the kitten, not just in terms of care, but the costs, the litter, the taming. She would not have waited until the 4th chapter to truly have the boy understand the responsibilities for which he was signing up.

The mother and child relationship

With his mother’s point exposed and his responsibilities revealed, the boy would have been a lot more relatable finding arguments to force the rules into allowing an exception. A true plea from the child explaining how broken and vulnerable the cat was the first day he saw it, without bringing it home, would have been a real opportunity to describe why he fell for the cat and wanted to bring it home. It would have shown that rules are important and he understands them but sometimes circumstances exist, and if well explained, with passion and persuasive facts, can give way to exceptions to the rules. It would have taught something to the child reading and shown the bond between mother and child.

The mother’s role – care for the child and corresponding rules for the kitten

The mother would have been making points right then not just about the time nurturing takes but the costs, and not just financial. The health and safety of a child is the responsibilities of their parents. This is one of the reason why a stray cat coming to a home should have been taken to a vet for at least a check. A good argument for a boy being told a stray cat takes time he might not have as he has friends would be that they could just at least nurture it back to strength. But a child should be told that a condition to keeping the cat would be that they take it to see a veterinarian to examine it and get its shots! That would have been credible and responsible. The arrival of the cat in the home and the requirements that come from it could have easily been a chapter of its own.

Jack in The Brave Little Kitten by Dag ArisInconsistencies and contradictions in The Brave Little Kitten

There are also a few inconsistencies or contradictions. For example, at one point, the cat is said to go with the boy everywhere (which I doubted then although the token mother would have been too absent to enforce a ban from taking the cat to school, another conversation that would have been useful in the absent previous chapter) and then later, we’re told that it is waiting for the child to come back from school (in my experience, this is more likely for a dog, but never mind that as it is possible). Such contradictions mark the shortest books most.

Some things did not sound/read right

There are a few things that did not sound right either or that I was unsure about. For example, would what seemed to be an outdoor cat be happy to stay indoors, espcially when they are left all day? Would what seems to be a young boy be left to cook unsupervised in the kitchen? “At what age?” is what comes to mind. Had the cat loved watching the mom, giving thus a break to Jack, I would have believed it more.

New challenges? Chapter 4 in The Brave Little Kitten

Chapter four, new challenges, follow the same recipe as its predecessors. Here again, the challenge is exposed, and then in the next breath overcome without so much as a tip to how, a realisation and understanding process testifying of the difficulty of the challenge, the break through and the growth. The chapter rather reads like an add-on, rather than being convincingly integrated into the story.

The last image of The Brave Little Kitten

The last image had a chance to truly be illustrative. But as usual, the cat is drawn emotionless and indifferent while the words try to persuade the reader that it looked through the window with curiosity as its master would glance at it with joy and contentment. The Brave Little Kitten promises to be immersive and yes, there are illustrations that are detailed but if they don’t correspond to the text, they kind of fail to immerse the reader, at least they did me. If they had, the beautiful orange tones reminiscent of the fall would have surely worked their magic.

The Brave Little Kitten, all in all…

Finally, the title of the book is the brave cat. But at no point does the book tell the story in a way that makes you think it is about the cat, e.g. telling any part from the perspective of the cat. Worse yet, there is nothing in the story that shows the cat is brave at all. It just seems to undergo things, from its weak demeanour at the beginning, to its attachment to the boy. There is nothing that shows struggle, as a factual story as opposed to a descriptive story would do. All in all, it seems that both the title of the story and the cover illustration are deceiving as they sum up the expectations they set yet neither meet these inside the book.

The Brave Little Kitten – Verdict

Sorry but it is hard to feel much from a children’s book that fails to engage the reader’s empathy and relatability in the description of scenes and characters, fails the editing checks and misillustrates the scenes. I would love to have the opportunity to re-read this book once all these mistakes are fixed. There is definitely a beautiful story hidden in there and I think I am most annoyed because I can see it that possibility had it been reviewed by a professional editor, at least an unbiased one. I wanted to feel the passion inside The Brave Little Kitten book not have to read a separate biography to learn about it.

If only… a better The Brave Little Kitten book

I wish the book was edited, the character developed, the choices made sense, things were cleverly foreshadowed like friends, that we could see relatability and growth in the character, that we could be immersed in the kitten’s change beyond words, that the illustrations remained realistic and complete as they were on the cover, that the bravery that qualifies the little kitten from the outset (the title) was demonstrated throughout so the bond between Jack & Lucky truly mean something in the end. I wish the challenges were from the outset not just an add-on, I wish the images correspond better and showed us Jack and Lucky more often, maybe as separate in the beginning and growing closer with the passage of time and pages. Then it would get a 10 from me. 

Editor’s notes on The Brave Little Kitten

It will always be the case that if you love kittens and cats, a story about them will warm your heart and make most of the errors invisible. But what is invisible to the conscious eye is still picked up by the subsconscious and one must be careful what they feed a child. The implicit single mother might also be a great attraction but again her tokenisation undermines this. You may make the same sentence as many times as you would like but if you cannot show the evidence in the storytelling, your words may become letters that are missing their spirit.