California Dreamin’, by Pénélope Bagieu, (March 2017, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626725461
Recommended for ages 12+
Mama Cass is a music legend. A member of The Mamas and the Papas folk group in the late 1960s, I grew up hearing the group bemoan Monday mornings and dream about California when the winters got too cold. There’s been a lot of ink spilled, writing about the dysfunctional group and its members, but Pénélope Bagieu pays homage to Cass by looking at her earliest years, before and leading up to the formation of the group, in her graphic novel, California Dream: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas and the Papas.
Beginning with her birth, California Dreamin’ tells Cass’ story through the eyes of the people in her life; her family, her friends, her band members. We learn something about each of them as they reveal their stories about life with Cass, and we get a glimpse into some of the singer’s defining moments: her work with Denny Doherty and the band, The Mugwumps; the group coming forming while performing in the Virgin Islands; Mama Cass joining The Mamas and the Papas despite John Phillips’ insistence that she was just providing “guest vocals”, and that the band was himself, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty.
The art is expressive and touching; Bagieu makes her characters cartoony but real; touching and intense. Making Cass’ story a graphic novel will hopefully appeal to a younger audience who may not know the singer or her group, but will appreciate her ability to make things happen for herself and never take no for an answer.
Pénélope Bagieu’s first US graphic novel was 2015’s Exquisite Corpse..