April 22, 2009

Itty Bitty Kitty Ditties.

Tim Hodapp has a background in education, religion, marketing, and communication strategy. All fields that seek to charm and sway. Yet for his authourial debut he's chosen a subject so safe it requires little swaying to move product: the domestic cat. That small, predatory, carnivorous species of crepuscular mammals have already beguiled humans for the past nine millennia, with an estimated 600 million currently allowed to prowl homes worldwide. A bid for a readership doesn't get safer than that.

Aspiring towards the spirit of Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies (1963), and by extension T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939, a 1982 edition of which Gorey illustrated), Itty Bitty Kitty Ditties guide their reader through a complete (modern English) alphabet of short verse pertaining to the laziness, obesity, narcissism, vandalism, prevarication, scatological humour, black humour, nightlife, and the general laidback stance of the domesticated feline life.

While it could easily be mistaken for an educational collection of nursery rhymes, it should likely be read in the company of an adult; the language is easy enough for the youngest readers to grasp, but some allusions may require further explanation. Parents who take exception to their wards being exposed to any of the aforementioned activities should best stay the hell away from this book altogether.

Hubert the cat

harbored a hatred for hounds

and haunted them daily

with unholy sounds.

Hodapp's verses are further generously illustrated with whimsical ink drawings by Alex Boies, whose blotchy impressions of moggy mayhem almost appear to have inspired the book. After all, Boies - who's previously illustrated Deborah M. Newton Chocolate's Imani in the Belly (1994), a children's version of a Swahili folk tale - is the sole keeper of a cat among the book's creative trio. Writer Hodapp owns a dog, as does graphic artist Jo Davison - in addition to a parakeet. Hardly avowed felinophiles, then.

Apart from the witty verses there's also a somewhat useful guide to hairballs, tail signals, and - betraying the creators background in commercial work - an accompanying
website, which apart form the book itself has assorted t-shirts and tea towels on offer. No doubt handy for dealing with what the cat might've dragged in. Potential commercial interests aside, one would have to possess a pretty hard heart - or be an avowed felinophobe - to not be charmed and swayed by these itty bitty kitty ditties.

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