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Hallmarks Of Felinity: A 9 Chickweed Lane Book
Brooke McEldowney
Andrews McMeel paperback $8.95

review by Amy Harlib

The multi-talented Brooke McEldowney, for many years having worked concurrently performing chamber music, at music reviewing and in cartooning, garners most recognition and fame for that last activity. McEldowney's strip, 9 Chickweed Lane, syndicated by United Features Syndicate since 1993, attracts a huge, ardent following with its good-natured gags about youthful 20- and 30-somethings coping with daily life and relationships in a contemporary USA suburban setting, and a teenage daughter, her mother and grandmother living together in an all-female household in particular.

Hallmarks Of Felinity, also the title of a recurrent theme in the comicstrip, collects that aspect's singled-out antics in this compact trade paperback of 9 Chickweed Lane's most beloved supporting character that gets 97 pages to strut feline stuff. We're talking Siamese cat here, a female named Solange (hopefully spayed), the companion animal of the no doubt semi-autobiographical piano playing, ballet and gymnastics-practicing young woman featured so prominently in the 'funny pages'.

In 46 numbered hallmarks (some running several pages), the drawings, captions and occasional reactive dialogue balloons perfectly capture the endearing, exasperating, puzzling, whimsical, graceful and playful qualities of a cat and its effects on its human caregivers. McEldowney's ability to convey the joys and headaches of life with a feline (and a seal-point Siamese in particular), with such charm and perceptive, frequently laugh-out-loud wit comes from a lifetime of personal experience, keen observation and consummate artistic skill.

Unlike many syndicated comics, Hallmarks Of Felinity's panels offer not only amusement, but astonishingly fine black and white, pen (or brush) and ink artwork too. The minimal cartoonish renderings of human beings and the distinctive Siamese-type feline bodies for the desired comical effect does not detract from McEldowney's superb technical control of line, composition, shading patterns, camera angles and various tones of pink colour accents. The drawings portray the grace, energy and emotions of its subjects with such perfection (especially the dance movement juxtaposed with the cat's movement), that they can be enjoyed for both the humorous meanings of the images and the expertise that created them.

This reasonably priced, compact little compendium deserves to be in the possession of cartoon lovers, ailurophiles and appreciators of excellent artwork far and wide. It represents a hallmark of sheer delight!
Hallmarks of Felinity

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