Batcat, a roly-poly, plump, and pink creature with no tail, pointed ears, and magenta bat wings, lives in a tree house and they are just fine all by themselves, playing video games, eating fast food, and watching the stars. Alone. Just the way they like it.
Then, one day, a ghost shows up. Batcat is shocked, annoyed, and extremely displeased, so they travel to the friendly neighborhood witch for a solution. From there they set out on a quest for ingredients for a potion that will solve all their problems. It turns out to be a difficult and miserable journey, especially when Batcat encounters bats and cats, neither of whom are willing to accept them. Exhausted mentally and physically, Batcat makes it back to the witch with the ingredients, only to be faced with the challenge of deciding exactly what they want to do with the ghost in their house and their life.
Ramm’s goofy cartoon art sends grumpy Batcat fluttering through caves, with a host of purple-black bats who don’t find Batcat quite batty enough, through a cemetery of selfish cats who definitely do not think Batcat is catty enough, and through encounters with skeletons, griffins, and other magical creatures. Along the way there is confetti, explosions, and longings for fast food, jokes, hijinks, and lots of pink, purple, and turquoise puffy art.
Meggie Ramm, who uses they/them pronouns like their creation, which was built from short cartoons they drew for elementary kids during comic classes, makes a central point of Batcat’s duality. They are frustrated and hurt by the bats and cats who insist they be one thing or the other and not their own, unique amalgam of both bat and cat. In the end, Batcat develops empathy for the ghost (whom they have been thinking of as merely obnoxious) and realizes they too might have different sides to their character. It’s difficult to fit a lot of emotional nuance into a short comic book for kids, but I was frustrated that Batcat at no point tried to communicate with the ghost about their feelings, even when they returned, they just suddenly accepted them as a roommate. I think a lot of early elementary books, especially those that push heavily on the “odd couple” friends trope like Frog and Toad, are guilty of one-sided relationships like this and don’t really teach kids that it’s ok to be an introvert, want to be alone, or not be friends with someone who annoys and bothers you. This is definitely an adult perspective, and a somewhat personal one, but it definitely threw me out of the story and made me disappointed with the ending.
Despite my own objections, this is a cute story, specifically encouraging young readers who may feel they don’t fit any single mold, and encouraging everyone to see things from other perspectives. This will be popular with fans of Yi’s Cat & Cat and stories of cheerful grumps like Cranky Chicken, and makes a nice addition to early elementary graphic novel collections.
By Meggie Ramm
Abrams Amulet, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 6-9
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
Creator Representation: Nonbinary
Character Representation: Nonbinary