Book review by Aarene Storms: California Dreamin'

Monday, December 20, 2021

California Dreamin’ : Cass Elliot before the Mamas and the Papas
by Pénélope Bagieu (graphic novel-format biography)

Cass Elliot wasn’t the kind of person that record producers wanted on album covers. She was too smart, too loud, too opinionated, and most of all, too fat. But, nobody ever said the woman couldn’t sing. Because nobody could deny that Cass Elliot had an amazing voice.

Cass Elliot’s friends and family tell the story of the famous singer’s young life, from her Italian-opera-loving Baltimore childhood through her awkward adolescence and up to the brink of fame. 

They see her as talented and stylish. Outwardly confident and brash, secretly insecure and lonely. And yeah: fat.

Author Pénélope Bagieu’s scribbly illustration style captures the chaos as well as the joy and despair in the life of this talented musician. 

Source material is cited at the back of the book, as well as a playlist of recommended recordings.

The book depicts plenty of drug and alcohol use (and abuse), sexual situations, some cussing, some cartoon nudity, bullying, and most of all, music. If you aren’t humming tunes through the last half of the book, well I guess you just aren’t really reading it, are you?Recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

Aarene Storms is a librarian who reads and reviews books for all ages. She can be reached at


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