California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas

California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas is a graphic novel written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu which highlights the early years of late singer Cass Elliot. It was initially published in French during 2015 by Gallimard. The American edition was translated by Nanette McGuinness and published two years later by First Second Books. The subtitle was added to the American 2017 version.[1] In 2018 it won the Harvey Award of Best European Book.

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas
cover of the book Calcfornia Dreaming featuring a drawing of Mama Cass in a red jacket, wearing a beret
AuthorPénélope Bagieu
TranslatorNanette McGuinness
IllustratorPénélope Bagieu
SubjectCass Elliot
PublisherGallimard, First Second Books
Published in English
Media typePrint

Background Edit

Later singer, Cass Elliot

As a child, Bagieu looked up to Cass Elliot as a role model which inspired the novel to be made.[2] In an interview with the School Library Journal she noted that "I noticed that every time I was telling a friend about her, her life, her music, I really made a point of trying to listen to her more carefully, to dig in to her amazing story, and to look further than just “Mama Cass.” And I could go on for hours, which is usually a good sign for me that I should make a book (and stop annoying my friends)."[3] She further stated that she chose to focus on Cass rather than the band as she "wasn’t that interested in her singing biography and her career" and that the "only part of the band that I was interested in was their twisted relationship, the vaudeville, the obstacles John Philips put on her, her romantic interest in Denny and her friendship with Michelle."[3]

Synopsis Edit

The novel consists of eighteen chapters and a prologue; most parts have been named after a person in Cass’ life. California Dreamin’ starts with Cass’ birth and ends around 1965, before Cass’ death. Towards the back of the book, there is a playlist of eight songs Cass sings in, which Bagieu recommends. As a biography, the novel is loosely historical[1] and formed out of four main sources: Dream a Little Dream of Me: The Life of “Mama” Cass Elliot by Eddi Fiegel, Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of the Mamas and the Papas by Matthew Greenwood, Make Your Own Kind of Music: A Career Retrospective of Cass Elliot by Jon Johnson, and California Dreamin’ by Michelle Phillips.

Illustration Edit

The illustrations spanning over 250 pages were all created using pencil, ink, and water. A majority of the work is pencil, with only complementary additions being made with the ink and water.[1] Except for the cover art, the book is entirely in black and white, something she chose because the book spans multiple eras that have different colors associated with them such as "something psychedelic and pop colors for the sixties and very stern, dark colors for the forties". Per Baglieu, the black and white color scheme allowed the book to feel more like a whole story and also gave her the opportunity to work with pencils.[4]

Reception Edit

In his review for the book in The Washington Post Michael Cavna wrote that Bagieu's "creative result is less about the Mamas and the Papas and more about how one irrepressible, winning young woman rises from her Baltimore roots by reaching for wherever her dreaming points her."[5] The Jewish Book Council also praised the book alongside Paste magazine, who noted that Bagieu "works in pencils, with no color, but the graphic novel doesn’t need bright hues to roil with life."[6][7]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c Lemke, Meg (2017-03-28). "Dream a Little Dream of Me: An Interview with Pénélope Bagieu". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2019-11-04.
  2. ^ Powell, Nancy (2019-05-22). "Interview: Penelope Bagieu on Female Representation In Comics And Cass Elliot". Archived from the original on 2019-05-22. Retrieved 2019-10-03.
  3. ^ a b Mozzocco, J. Caleb. "Interview: Pénélope Bagieu on 'California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas'". School Library Journal. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  4. ^ Hélène (2017-03-21). "Mama Cass as you have never seen her: An Interview with Pénélope Bagieu". BOOK RIOT. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  5. ^ Cavna, Michael (May 19, 2017). "Mama Cass graphic biography 'California Dreamin' ' shows how a Baltimore teen became a rock star". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-05-19. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  6. ^ "California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas Breaks Through the Biographical Noise". Paste. 2017-03-09. Archived from the original on 2017-04-04. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  7. ^ California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & The Papas. Jewish Book Council. 2017. ISBN 978-1-62672-546-1.