Keywords: Year 4+, comic book, superhero, cats, dogs, robots, adventure, humour, friendship.
I’m gonna be completely honest. I find it really, really, really annoying when cats in books and movies are automatically “the bad guys”. Think about it: when reading books or watching shows, how often have you seen cats who were villains? Maybe you haven’t seen it all that often. If so, you’re very lucky! But I’ve read and seen far too many stories where cats are unfairly assumed to be evil. Real Pigeons, Cats vs. Dogs, Isle of Dogs, Lady and the Tramp…
If you’re going to remember anything from this review, let it be this: NOT ALL CATS ARE EVIL!
Cats can be kind, intelligent, and even heroic! And Sparks! by Ian Boothby (illustrated by Nina Matsumoto) shows us just how wonderful cats are. The two main characters are Charlie and August – kitties who have escaped an evil alien research laboratory and now live in their own comfy home. (Here’s a quick warning: there are some scenes in this book where there are sad animals in a laboratory being experimented on. There’s nothing too scary, and every animal there has a happy ending.)
Most cats in Charlie and August’s shoes would stay home and live comfortable lives. And that’s fine! But these two kitties are a bit different. You see, August is super intelligent – like, intelligent enough to create robots and make a rug that electrocutes intruders. Meanwhile, Charlie is uncommonly brave and wants to help the world. So, these wonderful felines decide to team up and become superheroes!
But here’s the thing. Remember how we were talking about how cats are usually seen as evil? That means that whenever Charlie or August tried to help, humans would immediately assume that they were the villains and chase them away. Even though they were treated so unfairly, the cats still want to help. So August decides to design a superhero costume that both she and Charlie can use: a robot suit in the shape of a dog!
Unlike cats, dogs are more well-liked by many people. Dogs are usually the heroes in stories, so humans are more likely to trust them. So, to help people, Charlie and August transform into Sparks, the crime-fighting, people-saving dog!
But ‘Sparks’ isn’t alone in their superhero duties. Charlie and August live with two other friends: a talking litter-box robot named Litter and a jokester squirrel named Steve-O. Litter talks to the reader a lot as the narrator of the story, so we get to talk to him often. He helps the kitties to set up their Sparks robot suit (“Canine Configuration Commence!”) and he loves dance parties!
In terms of characters, I think the one I rooted for the most is August. When she was a kitten, the first time she played in the grass was when she was abducted and taken to the evil laboratory. Since then, she has an intense phobia of grass. Even just touching grass reminds her of that horrible event. August’s main character arc (her mini-plot that helps her grow as a character by the end of the story) is to face her fear of grass. I found myself cheering for her all the way through the book!
August is also very funny, though she doesn’t mean to be. Here’s one of my favourite scenes that shows August’s unintentional humour:
Charlie and August are in the Sparks robot suit. They are being attacked by alligators.
Charlie: “Aaaaah! Crocodiles!”
August: “Alligators, actually.”
Charlie: “REALLY? You’re giving a biology lesson NOW?!”
August: “Facts ALWAYS matter!”]
Maybe I like August because she reminds me so much of Louise and Sakura, two of our fact-loving Bookitties!
So, what do the Bookitties think of Sparks? Alfie liked it when he realized it was a superhero comic book. Then he LOVED it when he actually read it and enjoyed the story! Jun really enjoyed it too; it was the perfect book to read while he was taking a break from homework.