This I love. The Amazing Hamweenie is the tragic story of a cat whose vast ambitions for fame and stardom are viciously thwarted by his mundane surroundings.
Viciously. Thwarted. "Don't you know who I am?" he cries, in the piteous tones of a diva plucked from her glittering dressing room and plunged into a life among peasants. He is forced to endure tea parties with stuffed animals, he is transported in a doll carriage, and while he can see the exciting world out the window, all he can do is lounge on the sill, suffering.
Maybe it's only funny if you have a cat. Maybe it's only funny if you have one of those cats who disdain to show appreciation or affection, who affect an air of pained ennui when coddled with treats and head-rubbing. Hamweenie is like the famous YouTube cat Henri, tortured by the malaise of a bourgeois life. He is my beautiful Babe, who comes close enough to be admired, and then collapses just out of reach on the couch, so that we have to scoot a little closer to pet his gorgeous self.
And la, the art. Needly pen and ink lines define sumptuous feasts, sunbathing mousies, songbirds out the window, and excellent art on the apartment walls. Fade-y watercolors pick out a tiny orange pitcher on a shelf, a wedge of cheese the mice are gambling with, and really nice aqua subway tile on the kitchen floor. Between that tile and the green park bench in the hallway, I think I would not mind if Patty Bowman came to help decorate my house. So much detail, so much to love!
The illustration style, all attenuated limbs and round child heads, makes me think of Sophie Blackall and Peter McCarty. Plus that delicate line quality. There's a similar mild, earnest, childlike sincerity going on, too. It works really well with Hamweenie's melodramatic descriptions of his life - as the text plays against the rich and homey pictures, the joke builds, until the last page, when we see Hamweenie, napping with his girl on a stuffed armchair, clearly as happy as any cat has any right to expect to be.
A deadpan book for any kid who has ever had a cat, and who therefore knows the meaning of "deadpan."