Buster is a happy-go-lucky kitten. His life is great, with a human he loves, plenty of food, and a comfy house to live in. His human has been acting a little off lately—sadder and more tired than usual—but he’s not too worried about it.

One morning, Buster’s human goes on an overnight trip. No problem there, she left him plenty of food, after all. But then things get weird. There’s something in the house. A whole horde of blobby, hungry somethings. The creatures corner Buster, and things are looking hairy when when two strange cats appear and save him.

Outside the house, the newcomers introduce themselves: they are Chauncey and Nova, a pair of streetwise strays who specialize in taking down infestations of harmful spirits. That, they explain to Buster, is an important job of housecats: getting rid of the spirits and protecting their humans, who can’t see the nasty critters but are emotionally affected by them. So that’s why Buster’s human has been acting different lately! But the house is full of spirits, and Buster is just a little kitten! Even with Chauncey and Nova’s help, can he clear the place out before his human gets home?

This colorful book brings humor and heart to what is basically a kitten’s coming-of-age story, with monsters. Buster is sweet and well-intentioned but naïve, distractible, and a little dopey. Gentle Chauncey and prickly Nova help him grow as the three navigate the perils of the neighborhood—negotiating with hostile crows, fleeing angry dogs, and more—before finally taking on the spirits that have invaded Buster’s home. The book pokes gentle fun at Buster’s mistakes and misunderstandings and at Nova’s crabbiness for laughs, but there is emotional depth, too. Buster clearly cares for his human and wants to help her, and Chauncey and Nova have a strong bond and a shared backstory.

There is some highly cartoonish violence in the story, as the cats fight the blobby spirit-monsters, mostly by swatting or pouncing on them. A few other situations have an air of menace: the crows seem quite malevolent, as do the dogs that chase Buster and company. The stakes feel real, but the overall tone of the book is hopeful and adventurous, not scary.

The art is stylized, its simple characters inhabiting richly detailed settings. The vibe is cartoonish and active, with great variation in the panel layouts from page to page. The panels, and, indeed, the characters and objects, feature rounded corners, giving the art a smooth, softened quality. The color palette is warm and mostly stays within a narrow range of saturation, which ties everything together visually.

Housecat Trouble stands on its own, but a brief scene at the end suggests there may be follow-up adventures. With a rich cast of animal characters, humor, action, and heart, this book will be a fun adventure for young readers who like animals, especially those who enjoy imagining what pets get up to when their humans aren’t around.


Housecat Trouble
By Mason Dickerson
Penguin Random House Graphic, 2022
ISBN: 9780593173459
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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