Written and Illustrated by A.N. Kang
Disney Hyperion Books, 2016
Papillon is a big kitty.
He is not fat.
Just very fluffy.
The plot in a nutshell: A lighter-than-air cat struggles to keep his feet on the ground.
Papillon is so fluffy that he floats and his owner, Miss Tilly, discovers that the best way to keep him earthbound is to dress him in some type of clothing. She has many different costumes and ensembles for him to wear, but he’s not a big fan of wearing them. One day, when she goes out to do some shopping, he floats happily around the house and befriends a red bird on the window ledge. He follows him out the window and is soon lost and afraid in unfamiliar country. Fortunately, the red bird comes to his rescue and flies him back home, where Miss Tilly comes up with a great idea. She puts a little birdhouse hat on Papillon’s head, which keeps him on the ground and gives his new best friend a place a live.
This is the debut picture book from author/illustrator A.N. Kang and I absolutely adored it. The story is cute, but there’s more to it than that, too. Papillon’s dislike of Miss Tilly’s costumes (and let’s be honest, she did go overboard a bit with some of them!) drive him to a greater appreciation for freedom, which parallels the way that some parents try to over-control their children, prompting them to rebel and go in the opposite direction. Continuing in that vein of thought, you can easily see the rest of the book applying, with Papillon getting into trouble on his own and needing help to find his way back home, where he and his ‘mom’ find a compromise that works for both of them. Maybe not what Ms. Kang was going for, but the comparison certainly works.
The illustrations are almost unbearably adorable. I struck up a conversation with the children’s’ librarian about the amazing illustrators working in picture books these days and she pulled this book out of a stack to show it to me (and then hand it to me so I could check it out). I loved the colorful backgrounds in this book, especially the way they contrasted with Papillon’s white and grey shape. On Ms. Kang’s website, there’s a picture of her cat, also named Papillon, who I imagine was something of an inspiration for this story. I saw that, in some online stores, this book is listed as Papillon (Book 1), which I hope means that she is writing more stories with this lovable character.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that good friends keep you grounded while still finding a way to make you happy.