Eddie Muller of Noir Alley fame on TCM consistently delivers readers great books on and related to film noir and with Kitty Feral and the Case of the Marshmallow Monkey, movie fans now have the perfect way to introduce the genre to their kids! Co-written by Jessica Schmidt and illustrated by Forrest Burdett, this Kid Noir book has it all to engage the little ones and their parents in this clever and fun hardboiled detective story.
Between the story, the characters, and all of the clever nods to the film noir genre, it’s clear from the start that Eddie Muller’s fingerprints are all over Kitty Feral and the Case of the Marshmallow Monkey. All of the trappings of the genre ooze out of every page, whether it’s the tone of the narration, the dimly-lit settings, or the character archetypes. In the book, Kitty Feral is on the case to find his missing partner, Mitch the Mutt, and the neighborhood kids’ missing chocolate covered marshmallow monkey, a Maltese Falcon-esque MacGuffin. What follows is a tale of mystery and movie references with a satisfying conclusion. Muller and Schmidt seamlessly work film noir concepts and even famous movie titles right into the narrative to keep the story fresh and fun throughout. The sense of the unknown is threaded in such a way to keep kids engaged without being too complex to become hard to follow.
Forrest Burdett captures Muller’s sense of style and atmosphere perfectly with images which look like they could be projected right onto the silver screen. He makes good use of blacks and grays to perfectly capture backgrounds, scenery, and environments. The use of shadow throughout is evocative of the genre. This is a kids’ book we’re talking about though, and Burdett finds a way to use color to highlight important characters or parts of the story. This limited palette of blues to enhance Kitty’s trench coat and hat and reds for Mutt’s collar or the cinema marquee add just a splash of color to make the art stand out and capture the imagination of children readers. When the story is resolved and all is well in the world, Burdett introduces more and more color to create a book that’s truly vivid to enjoy.
Running Press rounded out the package with a high quality hardcover book with dust jacket that could be opened up wide and enjoyed many times. The book’s pages are wide and thick and they hold the colors well and maintain crisp images throughout. Color and illustrations are used for the endpapers to keep the presentation classy from cover to cover. There’s even a “What is Film Noir?” page in the back of the book to clue in adult readers who may not be such cinephiles as the rest of us! Overall, this is a beautiful-looking book that can be appreciated by readers and collectors of all ages.
With Kitty Feral and the Case of the Marshmallow Monkey, Eddie Muller brings film noir fans the perfect kind of book to bridge the gap between parents and their kids and a satisfying story for all to enjoy. Here’s hoping that the next entry in the Kid Noir series is in the works!