Sparks! by Ian Boothby (author) and Nina Matsumoto (illustrator). Scholastic Graphix, 2018. 9781338029468. 190pp.
“I am a litter box and this is my story!”
That first line is one of the best of all time, though the AI litter box doesn’t just tell it’s own story, it also tells that of two cats, August (a genius inventor and its creator) and Charlie, the brave cat who helped August escape the lab where they were experimented on. Together they wear a robotic dog suit to perform heroic deeds around town and hide their identities. A local newscaster is suspicious of the dog — is it causing the trouble it’s solving? A very mean and smart “baby” out to conquer the world is trying to capture the cats. And there’s a chatty squirrel who may not be as friendly as he seems. It’s got the beauty and insanity of a great Saturday morning cartoon, and the heart of a wonderful story about friendship. Plus it’s fun. I’m shoving this into the faces of both my teenage daughter and my “stop trying to make me laugh” wife because I know they’ll love it, too.
Matsumoto and Boothby co-created a 2009 Eisner Award winning short, “Murder He Wrote,” which appeared in the comic book The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #14. Boothby writes quite a bit for Matt Groening’s Bongo Comics line, as well as for TV. Matsumoto has done work for Bongo, wrote and illustrated Yōkaiden for Del Rey, and created the popular webcomic Saturnalia (which sadly no longer seems to be available online).