Cream Maid by writer Mark Dickson, artist Rebecca Burgess and letterer Davis Rush is ultimately a book about family. The main crux surrounds the relationship that develops between Cream Maid, Honey and Darling. Cream Maid being a vaguely anthropomorphic cat who the couple hire to be their maid. However, Cream Maid ends up becoming part of the family. Disaster and strange occurrences tend to follow Cream Maid around making each chapter an entertaining read. The first chapter depicts how Cream Maid affects the already somewhat strained relationship between Honey and Darling, and continues by showing the effect Cream Maid has on strangers -providing insight into the character right off the bat.
There is a lot about finding personal happiness within your own life here – despite expectations and practicality. The overarching theme of most of the chapters is about doing what feels comfortable to you, which is a nice message. I particularly appreciate how Honey and Darling develop throughout the book; at first because of where their relationship was and the fact that they were rich made them less relatable as characters than Cream Maid. The characters end up in a really interesting place, as we learn more about them and what is important to them over the course of the book.
Rebecca Burgess’ art compliments the story’s sweet-cartoonish feel, with exaggerated emotion and a candy-coloured world, matching Cream Maid’s outfits throughout with each storyline. Burgess generally makes the way Cream Maid is drawn through stand out, making them move in a more “bouncy” gestural way than other characters.
Discussing mental health a little alongside the main stories of each chapter grounds the characters’ traits in reality despite some of the outlandish and zany antics of Cream Maid. The inclusion of LGBTQA+ characters feels very natural, they simply exist as part of the fabric of the story in this universe. The overarching story themes also tend to have basis in reality such as navigating relationships, trying to find what fulfils you, and doing what you want to despite the expectations of society and your parents in particular. Again, this lends itself to grounding the story.
As the book progressed the familiarity of the characters and their relationships drew me back into the story’s world, ready to discover more about the characters. Overall Cream Maid gave me that feeling which I got from children’s books like Paddington or Spot, but including some more modern sensibilities. The characters were all different and intriguing and Cream Maid’s joyful personality really struck me despite the fact they don’t communicate in a conventional way. Honey and Darling’s relationship was particularly interesting to read as an adult due to the changes and growth within each chapter. The casual inclusion of mental health and LGBT+ characters throughout, establishes the story in our current reality and also makes the world connect with readers. An adorable, much needed and uplifting book.
Mark Dickson (W), Rebecca Burgess (A), Davis Rush, Samantha Benc (CA) • Arledge Comics, $19.99
Review by Holly Raidl