The story of a fashionable feline
Fashion is something most people read about only in glossy magazines, but in Zat Cat! A Haute Couture Tail, her new title for young readers, Chesley McLaren brings the glamorous life to the masses with high good humor. From the sidewalks to the runway, as fashion goes, so does Zat Cat! McLaren's entertaining tale follows a stray feline through the streets of Paris. And this cat is like no other. He doesn't chase mice or dig through garbage looking for leftover tuna. No, not Zat Cat. Instead, he enjoys basking in the sun at the Jardin Luxembourg, a beautiful park fit for a king, or lolling at the Louvre, a magnificent museum bursting with treasures. Ultimately, Zat Cat finds himself in the midst of a Paris haute couture fashion show. He is thrilled to watch the models parading down the catwalk: Such glitter, such style, as they twirl down the aisle. But his excitement and curiosity get him into trouble, for when he sneaks into the dressing room, he destroys all of the dresses for the designer's grand finale. Luckily, as McLaren shows us, fashion is fickle. The audience loves the tattered dresses. The designer becomes la rage de Paree (the hit of Paris) and Zat Cat is hailed as being Beyond le Frais (priceless). McLaren, who spent several years as a fashion designer in New York City, knows the ins and outs of the fashion industry. She has created mannequins for Pucci, as well as window displays, murals and ad campaigns for Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Her illustrations have graced the pages of Vogue, The New York Times and Vogue Espana, for whom she covered the Paris haute couture shows. In Zat Cat! her fabulous illustrations bring to life the enchanting world of haute couture. Perhaps the most entertaining element of the book are the faux French (as she calls them) phrases that McLaren sprinkles throughout the story. Printed in a stylish font, these footnotes provide easy pronunciations and fun definitions that give readers a basic understanding of French words. And what's more, Zat Cat! gives young readers a taste of French culture and haute couture, which unless they open the cover of Vogue they're unlikely to find elsewhere. Heidi Henneman is a freelance writer who recently moved from the fashion capital of the U.S. (New York City, of course) to the West Coast.