February 20, 2018

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California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas by Pénélope Bagieu | SLJ Review

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redstarBAGIEU, Pénélope. California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas. illus. by Pénélope Bagieu. 272p. bibliog. ebook available. First Second. Mar. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781626725461.

STAR-GN-Bagieu-CaliforniaDreaminGr 9 Up –Long before she was a singing icon, Ellen Cohen was a middle child in an average Baltimore family. Shortly after finishing high school, she went full-force into her quest to become a musical star, adopting the moniker Cass Elliot. Set primarily against the backdrop of the 1960s, this book begins as an exciting discovery of an emerging talent but concludes as a somber examination of themes such as lust, body image, family, and broken hearts. Bagieu injects the melancholy, chaotic account of Elliot’s young adulthood with vibrancy. The lack of coloration, the light pencil work, and the long, swooping strokes imbue the narrative with a frenetic sense of motion, evoking the feeling of beat poetry. Although this is a biography—complete with a bibliography—the author crafts story arcs out of the singer’s past to closely emulate the pacing of fiction, making this selection approachable for those unfamiliar with Elliot’s group, the Mamas and the Papas. Bagieu tells the tale through the perspectives of those around Elliot, leaving readers to form their own opinions about her. Because of the depiction of drug use and the inclusion of some nudity, this title is more appropriate for mature readers. VERDICT Recommended for older teen collections, this superb addition is sure to be a future graphic novel classic.–Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.

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