The exploits of a manic pixie dream cat lady
Devotees of CanLit may have an image in mind when they hear the words “Anne Michaels” and “children’s book” in tandem, but it probably looks nothing like the colourful Miss Petitfour, the star of the acclaimed Fugitive Pieces author’s first book for the juice box set.
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour is a four-colour chapter book that chronicles the ordinary-made-extraordinary exploit soft he title character — part Mary Poppins, part manic pixie dream cat lady — who manages to make shopping for marmalade and gathering old junk for a jumble sale a magical quest. This is largely accomplished by her mode of travel across town, using a tablecloth like a hot-air balloon with her 16 cats (Captain Clothespin is a favourite) in tow.
A routine search for a cat’s birthday wheel of old cheddar (we’ve all been there) turns into a mildly rousing nautical near-disaster, while a day that opens with baking cookies is unexpectedly interrupted by a confetti factory explosion. There’s no shortage of oddly quaint things that befall Petitfour and her feline friends.
Michaels keeps the action light and lively, displaying a real knack for language play — she’s not Toronto’s poet laureate for nothing. Indeed, the book works best read aloud as it indulges in the pleasure of long lists, digressions and words such as debonair and tarantella.
Emma Block’s vibrant, stylized illustrations are a true co-star, giving the book a distinctly whimsical look. . The only quibble I could muster with this playful book is its format: with its beautiful illustrations, begging-tobe-vocalized verbiage and vignette structure, I wondered if Miss Petitfour wouldn’t be better served by a series of dazzling picture books. But then, one must assume a woman who names a cat Sizzles knows what she’s doing.