Miss Annie, a small black and white kitten, lives with her family, The Dad, The Mom, and Sarah. Alone in the house, she guards and protects, fighting a leaf, prowling through the house and longing to go outside. When she meets her first mouse, despite her instinct to eat it, she ends up giving it a name – Keshia – which she knows from Sarah is what a person calls her very best friend. Together they talk about their dreams; Miss Annie dreams of going outside and running free with no rules, while Keshia wants to stay safe in her hole, meet a nice boy mouse, and have a big family. When Miss Annie finally gets her dream and goes outside, she learns from a wise older cat, Zeno, that freedom isn’t everything she expected and comes with a lot of dangers and rules to follow, just like inside. Zeno introduces Miss Annie to Miss Rostropovna, another seasoned cat who shows Annie some of the dangers of the outdoors. At the end of the story, Miss Annie has learned that freedom isn’t the rule-free paradise she expected, but it’s still a wonderful thing.
The panels are arranged in slightly overlapped sets of eight, each one focused on the movements of Miss Annie. Pouncing, trotting, purring, listening, and pouting, she weaves her way through the pages showing a delightful variety of perfectly drawn cat behaviors and emotions. The anthropomorphism in the text never extends too far into the art, so while Miss Annie thinks about how she’s helping her family, the reader sees her displaying natural cat behaviors – pouncing on stockings, curling up on chairs, and batting about yarn and other forbidden delights. The colors shift from strong earth-hued décor; oranges, browns, light greens and blues, to a softer, darker palette for the scenes during the night. The various cats and Keshia are strongly drawn with distinctive faces and colors. The humans are only shown from Miss Annie’s point of view so they’re basically a collection of legs and reaching hands, but they still manage to be distinct and develop personalities through their dialogue and reaction to Miss Annie. Miss Annie herself is, of course, the most intimately drawn with emotions shown through her changes in body language and expressive ears.
There are plenty of cat-themed graphic novels, from the always-popular Garfield to the hilarious Binky by Ashley Spires and super cute Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Kanata. Miss Annie brings a more reflective story with strong and intriguing art to the collection. Young and old readers alike will enjoy this sweet and slightly humorous story and look forward to more adventures of Miss Annie as she explores the outside world.
The only drawback to this new series is Lerner’s high pricing – they offer a choice between expensive library bound editions, $25 to $30 apiece, or paperback. However, I’ve had generally good results with their paperbacks and while Miss Annie will be popular I don’t see it needing the heavier binding of, say, a Star Wars comic, so your library should be safe with the very affordable paperbacks.