3 out of 4 stars
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I am not in the target demographic for this novel. This is not a book that would be recommended to me, nor would it ever turn up in my hands on a visit to the library. I knew that from the moment I saw the cover, and I still went ahead and read it anyway. It wasn't all that long ago that this book would have been right up my street. I was a child raised on Barbara Parks' fantastic Junie B. Jones series, and the style of Diary of a Snoopy Cat is very reminiscent of its style. Substitute a quick-witted six-year-old with an equally quirky cat, and you've got yourself a combination that kids won't be able to resist.
The plot, if you can call it that, darts around aimlessly without much structure. I wouldn't call this a problem; it's more of an artistic choice. In this case, the book is presented as a diary of day-to-day advents. There are two major stories going on throughout the novel, both of which are interchangeable as Inca (our protagonist) necessitates. This can be a little confusing, and I wonder if it wouldn't have been better to separate the stories into two separate books. Sometimes, Inca decides to focus on neither plot, and instead details the lives of her siblings and her owner. It feels a little cluttered, but since the book is a diary, I think the choices are justified somewhat. I would have preferred a little more structure for the sake of clarity, but children likely won't have a problem with it.
If I were to give an age bracket for maximum enjoyment of Snoopy Cat, I think that 7-10 years would be the sweet spot. There is nothing in it that I would consider inappropriate for younger children, however, there are some difficult words that they might have a moderate amount of trouble with. There isn't anything too crazy lurking within these pages, but there is some snappy wordplay that might trip up a new reader. I personally recommend this book to be read aloud with an adult present for any child younger than seven. Snoopy Cat is just begging to be a bedtime story. Between its short chapters that are divided into diary entries and a laid-back plot that relishes more in comedy than adventure, I can see this becoming a nighttime favorite for children.
The book isn't without its share of faults, though. Sadly, I don't find the side characters very engaging. There is a large and colorful cast, most of whom unfortunately get overshadowed. There are simply too many of them to keep track of. There are multiple cats, a hamster, a handful of dogs, and a multitude of other critters that are all fighting for their spot in the story. This results in many of these characters being little more than one-note jokes. I think that children will have a bugger of a time trying to differentiate some of these animals, even with the illustrations to help them out. I am an adult, and I still managed to get most of the dogs confused with each other.
Tragically, the illustrations themselves also aren't up to snuff. They are well drawn and fit the situation, but for a story whose protagonist is so egotistical and huge, I expected something much more cartoony. I don't find them over-the-top enough, if anything, they are usually very subtle sketches. This contrasts jarringly with the personality of Inca, who is anything but subtle. Inca is, far and away, the best part of the story. She is hilariously over-dramatic and egocentric while still remaining lovable. Her heart always seems to be in the right place, even if she overdoes it. Despite this, the illustrations present her as dull, rarely smiling, and little more than a mundane house cat. The other characters aren't treated much better. Fromage is the cat with the most life in his illustrations. Any time he was pictured, he was always good for a laugh, even from me. I wish the other characters had received equally hilarious designs, but none of them do.
Due to those problems, I regrettably have to give The Diary of a Snoopy Cat 3 out of 4 stars. This hurts me deeply, because I know I would have loved this book when I was a child. This would have been something I read over and over and over again, no question, because there's just so much to see. There are two mysteries, a horde of characters, pages of artwork, funny antidotes, and a larger-than-life protagonist that practically leaps of the page. It is simply impossible to get everything with only one reading. There's so much content, that sadly, most of it is left underdeveloped and shallow. I hope that future books in the series will further help to flesh out the world, if sequels do end up being published. As it sits, even though I will definitely be saving this book for my future children, I can't give it the perfect rating I so desperately want to it have.
Diary of a Snoopy Cat
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