Writer/Artist: Rachael Smith
Release Date: 15th November 2014 (Thought Bubble UK)
It’s almost impossible to open a glossy magazine or newspaper these days without stumbling onto a ‘problem page’. You know the deal; unqualified wannabe (or failed) celebrities giving their ‘insight’ into problems posed by unhappy members of the public. But hang on, if we’re willing to accept advice on matters of the heart from these kinds of people, then why wouldn’t we be just as willing to accept it from an adorable blue cartoon kitten?
Enter ‘Ask Flimsy’, a gloriously charming project from the mind (and pen) of Rachael Smith. Comprised of real questions from real members of the public posed via Flimsy’s Tumblr, this book serves a collection of some of Flimsy’s wonderfully straightforward – and often incredibly sweet – advice. The questions range from philosophical (“what does love feel like?”) to the downright bizarre (“how can I tell if my pet guinea pigs love me?”), but Flimsy handles them in her stride with a wide variety of advice, all of which are pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Okay, so let’s be honest, a cartoon cat answering questions on love, romance and heartache isn’t necessarily going to appeal to everyone, and I’ll fully admit that it’s most definitely not the kind of title I’d normally pick up myself. But at the same time, there’s a certain sweetness and humour to Rachael Smith’s illustrations and responses that’s difficult not to get a kick out of. Yes, the artwork is fairly crude (by conventional standards, at least), but it works perfectly to illustrate the straightforward points being made. After all, we don’t exactly need elaborate illustrations and detailed, intricate linework to convey a cartoon cat being overjoyed at receiving a bottle of red wine.
Some of Flimsy’s advice is silly, some is surprisingly poignant, but all of it is delivered in the same gloriously whimsical style by Smith. With simple messages ranging from ‘love yourself before trying to love anyone else’ to ‘red wine is awesome’, Smith manages to mix things up in order to keep the book interesting, and makes sure to utilise Flimsy’s last answer as a loving ‘thank you’ to the reader.
Bottom line, this is a book that’s going to appeal to a very distinct demographic, and people outside of that demographic probably aren’t going to get all that much out of. But if you’re reading this thinking ‘hey, that sounds like a pretty damn awesome idea’, then you’re definitely in for a treat. Rachael Smith has put together a uniquely interactive project here, creating a character with a sense of wistful optimism mixed with just the right amount of cynicism to stop everything becoming too saccharine. ‘Marmite’ it may be, but I can guarantee that every single person reading this review has at least one person in their life who would go absolutely bananas for Ask Flimsy.
You can find out more about the creator at www.rachaelsmith.org, and pre-order yourself a copy of Ask Flimsy (as well as checking out some of Flimsy’s previous adventures) via the Flimsy Kitten Factory Etsy Store.