I recently chose Chris Riddell's chapter book Ottoline and the Yellow Cat off the library shelves because of its whimsical cover (It's true! I judge!) and was delighted to see its setting was "Big City."
Ottoline Brown lives in Apartment 243 of the Pepperpot Building. Her parents are traveling the world and collecting interesting things (though they do keep in touch via postcards and sage tidbits of advice), and so Ottoline spends her days with the unusual Mr. Monroe. Mr. Monroe will probably remind the reader of Cousin It. One day, Ottoline notices a rash of burglaries around the city. Being a very good thinker, she sets out to solve them (with Mr. Monroe's help, of course). Along the way she encounters some shady feline and canine characters, but with a detailed and clever plan she sets a trap to catch the (ahem) cat burglar.
Chris Riddell crafts Ottoline's tale through a clever combination of text and intricate and amusing line drawings. Immediately I was put in mind of Eloise, but the narration of Ottoline's story relies much more on the drawings than Eloise's. The city setting is crucial to the story and adds the requisite air of mystery. There are plenty of intriguing, yet whimsical cityscapes, especially when Ottoline sets out at night, when her long shadow is dwarfed by towering buildings. A thieves' den in and old warehouse presents a quirky take on a hideaway you might see in an old 40s film noir, but a resident chihuahua named Fifi Fiesta Funny Face III, keeps us firmly in the world of children's books.
My sons and I really enjoyed Ottoline and the Yellow Cat as a read aloud, but it could easily be enjoyed by any child on his own, as long as they take plenty of time to examine the drawings.
Big Kid says: "Ottoline! Ottoline! Ottoline!"
Little Kid says: "Ottoline! Ottoline! Ottoline!"
(This was the chant they shouted every night when it was time for our read aloud.
Visit the author's website.
Read more reviews at Annie and Aunt, Charlotte's Library, books4yourkids or Kids Read.
There are more Ottoline books: Ottoline Goes to School and Ottoline at Sea.
Watch this you tube video of Chris Riddell drawing Ottoline: