“SWIRLING SPARKLES, TWIRLING TAPE, SHINING SCISSORS…IT’S THE AMAZING CRAFTY CAT!”
The Amazing Crafty Cat by Charise Mericle Harper is an engaging tale of imagination, creative crafting prowess, and the altar ego who brings it all together. Birdie is a young girl with a passion for everything Panda and a talent for creating magic with some paper, tape, and glitter. When her crafting mojo swings into full gear, she transforms into The Amazing Craft Cat, a fearless wielder of scissors and sparkles.
This altar ego, of course, exists in Birdie’s head, but that doesn’t make The Amazing Crafty Cat any less effective in a crisis. And Birdie’s crisis is one to which we can all relate, no matter our age or crafting inclinations…the horrifying prospect of being embarrassed in front of your peers. This suspenseful tale is skillfully intertwined with Panda-related craft projects (with a few bunnies and aliens thrown in for variety), which are woven into the narrative as a part of Birdie’s daily activities, daydreams, and problem-solving strategies.
Along with all of this, we get a number of important lessons about confidence, creativity, and self-acceptance. Being a creative person is so frequently depicted as an innate quality, something you are either born with or not. Artistic talent is something to be judged on a scale of perfection, a pinnacle of achievement that few are able to scale. Harper, however, explores the rich possibilities of imperfections and mistakes. She makes it clear that creative imagination is a tool that anyone can wield and that the best critique of the results comes from the satisfaction and enjoyment of the wielder.
Crafty Cat is geared towards younger readers (ages 6-10, specifically) and targets that audience very successfully. The artwork is colorful, energetic, and straightforward. Birdie’s world is filled with inanimate objects, including clouds, flowers, and tears that talk and engage with her directly. The dialogue engages the reader through multiple voices and the repetition of concepts. Perhaps most importantly, though, the story is fun for both the younger reader and the adult who will likely be reading along with them.
Harper features five projects through the course of the story and offers patterns and detailed instructions for each at the end of the volume. She keeps the spirit of the story going by giving the project images themselves animated voices that participate in the instructions and offer words of encouragement to the crafter. While I didn’t test any of these projects with any crafters in the targeted age groups, the instructions are easily understandable, especially with some adult supervision for the crafters on the younger end of the scale.
Birdie and Crafty Cat’s first adventure is a super fun and inspiring introduction to the world of crafting for which there is really no age limit. The Amazing Crafty Cat will be available on April 12, 2017, from First Second Books and is the first volume in a planned trilogy. The next installments in the Crafty Cat saga, Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis and Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle, are scheduled for publication in August of 2017 and April of 2018, respectively. We creative crafty cats can’t wait!