This is not so much of a book review as an enthused recommendation. Sometimes I come across a book and think; “How is it possible I never heard of that before?” and this is one of them.
Thanks to the super-lovely Christmas gifts from my Japanese friend I found out about Chi’s Sweet Home (チーズスイートホーム). The books, nine in the series so far, are by Konami Kanata and tell the story of a kitten who gets separated from her mother and litter mates. It’s a lovely tale told from the kitten’s point of view and the simplicity of the story makes it suitable for all ages of readers.
The first book opens with the yet to be named kitten wandering around the local streets being frightened by dogs and cars until finding a park where, by chance, a small boy, Youhei, falls over and discovers the lost kitten.
This introduces the Yamada family, who immediately begin to get attached to the delightful and yet troublesome little ball of fur. The depictions of cat behaviour, especially in kittens, is so well observed that cat lovers will laugh aloud in recognition (I know I did).
The Yamadas try their best to wash, litter train and keep Chi a secret from neighbours in an apartment building that doesn’t allow pets*, whilst trying to find her a new home. Chi begins to settle into the family’s life, although she does miss her own cat family. A warning to cat owners here; you may experience sniffle-y moments at the pathos of sad kitten expressions.
The way that the Yamadas disguise Chi’s sudden love of climbing into a window to look outside, where she can be seen by other residents, is hilarious. Of course there’s also a mandatory visit to the vet, which does not please Chi in the slightest.
It’s an easy and quick read as there’s not that much dialogue and the charming artwork creates a wonderful atmosphere and emotional context. As my friend sent me the Japanese language version; I still enjoyed the book massively without being able to read a word. I did buy the English translation to get an idea of how the characters talk.
I can understand how well-loved the books have become and I’ll certainly be buying the rest of them for a funny and heartwarming tale of a kitten’s life with humans. The only pity for me is that the translated books didn’t get the same paper stock as in the Japanese version, the printing is softer and more sepia-looking which I find suits the gentle water colours and rhythm of the storytelling.
I can’t wait to see what Chi gets up to next with the Yamada family.
*A small note: the “secret” pet is a frequent motif in many manga I’ve read, which I assume is down to the cultural norm in Japan of rental property rules over personal home ownership.