CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 23. . . February 24, 2017
In this entertaining collection, author and illustrator Steve Wolfhard teams up with Koyama Press to publish an amusing compilation of the zany escapades of Cat Rackham. Although Wolfhard’s Cat Rackham dates back numerous years in comic format, this is the first time his character’s adventures have been made available in a convenient anthology.
Tapping into his own personal experiences, Wolfhard offers readers a glimpse into the mysterious life of Cat Rackham, the perpetually melancholy kitty whose days are comprised primarily of deep, contemplative thoughts, sleep, and the occasional comradery with his upbeat sidekick, Jeremy the Squirrel. This collection includes a series of short comic sequences, each of which contains its own miniature plot and surprise outcomes. The touching endnotes, comprising of an intimate interview with the author, reveal that Cat Rackham was born out of Wolfhard’s own personal struggles with depression and how his lovable feline protagonist continues to serve as an inspiration for others experiencing mental health issues.
Wolfhard’s illustrations are delightful, and his perceptive attention to detail in each illustrative component carries readers into the storylines, inviting them to share in the feelings of the characters. Thoughts and spoken words are appropriately conveyed via traditional comic speech bubbles while some comic sequences are presented wordlessly, with the illustrations effortlessly carrying the plot without a need for accompanying text. The opening wordless story sets the tone for the remainder of the collection and serves as a poignant, visual introduction to the most intimate, emotional side of Cat Rackham.
It is important to note that, although the content of this collection is innocently presented through charming and lighthearted illustrations, the main theme of each comic is quite emotionally packed and often tragic. It is, therefore, recommended that this collection be reserved for older audiences as the sensitive subjects and sometimes violent scenes would require a more mature reader to fully comprehend and appreciate the creative merger of tragedy and comedy.
The Collected Cat Rackham is best experienced through multiple readings as the subtle, artistic details of Wolfhard’s illustrations can easily be glossed over upon initial exploration. This collection may serve as a form of comfort and encouragement to those who have personally faced mental health issues during their lifetime as the trials and tribulations of Cat Rackham, though silly and feline in nature, effectively mirror universal human sentiments. The Collected Cat Rackham is a pleasantly unusual book that would appeal to anyone hoping to indulge in a visually creative, heartwarming, and emotionally powerful read.
Christina Quintiliani is an Ontario Certified Teacher and Ph.D. Candidate at the Faculty of Education, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON., where she is researching children’s literature.
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