Goodreads: Ottoline and the Yellow Cat
Series: Ottoline #1
Ottoline Brown lives in the Pepperpot Building with her parents’ collections from all over the world and Mr. Munroe, who is covered in hair and used to live in a bog in Norway. When the two learn that lapdogs have been disappearing all over the city, they create a clever and daring plan to uncover the truth.
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat is a quirky middle-grade mystery perhaps more notable for its illustrations than for its story. While the narrative is vaguely interesting and the mystery rather predictable, the illustrations add charm and humor. In the end, it was the illustrations that kept me reading and convinced me to request the sequel from the library.
The book is a perfect example of how pictures and text can and should work together to create a story. While the prose narrative seems sometimes rather standard, the illustrations add meaning that transforms the story into something special. Sometimes this occurs through humorous notes and labels. Sometimes this occurs through charming characterization. And sometimes this occurs through emotions left unsaid: sadness, loneliness, and longing. The postcards that keep arriving from Ottoline’s absent parents, the image of Mr. Munroe distantly outlined against the sky, and the scenes of Ottoline alone, being cared for by strangers, all combine to add a layer to the story never directly expressed in the prose. Indeed, the prose itself suggests Ottoline and Mr. Munroe are very happy, thank you.
But this layer of sorrow adds depth to the story. Readers can see that Ottoline is a courageous, independent, and clever girl. Perhaps she’s had to be. Perhaps she wishes to impress her parents, who are explorers and collectors. Perhaps she simply is. Whatever the case, however, there is infinite sadness in the realization that Ottoline’s parents do not get to witness any of this. Ottoline and Mr. Munroe make their way through the world alone, making friends, certainly, but clinging to each other as family.
Ottoline’s spirit impressed me nearly as much as the illustrations. Her bright, can-do attitude made me sympathize with her immediately, as did Mr. Munroe’s unwavering loyalty to Ottoline–even when Ottoline forgets him. I wanted them to succeed, but, more than that, I simply wanted to spend time in their company, taking walks, meeting new people, exploring their world, so strange and unexpected, but always taken by them so matter-of-factly. Chris Riddell drew me in with pictures and kept me with the characters. More Ottoline books are in my future, for sure.