Cat’s Café

Andrews McMeel. May 2020. 168p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781524855048.
Gr 5 Up–Started as a webcomic back in 2017, this is a heartwarming and whimsical work about coffee, friendship, and growth. Each day local residents visit Cat’s Café for their caffeine fix, but many stay for conversation and a sense of belonging. Penguin is the resident coffee junkie who always needs a bigger cup. Rabbit, Cat’s uncertain new apprentice, struggles with self-confidence while learning the trade and trying to make Cat proud. Every local, from Fox, who orders in sign language, to Platypus, who delivers the town’s mail, stops by at some point, and each short comic shares their personalities, struggles, and aspirations. Readers will fall in love with Tarpley’s rainbow-colored art and soft, rounded, adorable cartoon characters. The book shines with its depth of characterization—Opossum struggles with low self-esteem, Rabbit has chronic anxiety, and Snake wrestles with depression. Tarpley normalizes each individual’s challenges and shows how kindness, support, love, and, of course, coffee can make each day a little better and each challenge more manageable.
VERDICT Though middle graders will appreciate this one, it will resonate with graphic novel lovers of all ages.

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