Foreword Reviews

Purrfect Books for Cat Lovers

cats

As any cat person knows, cats and reading go hand in hand. You settle down in your chair, maybe you have a cup of tea beside you, crack open your book with a satisfied sigh, and lo and behold, you’ve got a cat on your lap. Well, your book is on your lap. Your cat is on your book. Ah, the struggle of a cat-loving reader. In honor of our furry friends, we have a whole book list about them. With everything from heartwarming tales to adventures in the great outdoors, you’ll be able to find something your cat will approve of. We’ve even got a book from a cat’s point of view. Be prepared to spend Cat Day happily reading about your favorite feline—with that feline, of course, reading with you.

Love, Alba

Book Cover
Sophy Burnham
River Sanctuary
Softcover $15.95 (226pp)
978-1-935914-47-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Narrated by an articulate cat, this feline examination of human behavior offers a unique perspective on relationships. Sophy Burnham’s Love, Alba is a touching reflection on life in a conversational storyteller’s style.

Alba is only one of the personified cats featured in this heartfelt novel set in Washington, DC. Without question, these sage creatures dominate the plot. Mystical, angelic, and occasionally overbearing, they contribute much more than insignificant details. The feline world depicted in Burnham’s book constitutes a subplot that is perhaps more interesting than its human counterpart.

Late that night I moved to the moonlit window. A bat flew past, a silent blur of black, and deep in the grass came the scurrying of mice and moles. In the distance a garbage can lid fell with a clatter—the work of an urban raccoon. The city was bathed in an amber glow, and with eyes half-closed I settled into the silent cat-space that connected me with Puma across the river, communing mind to mind.

Entwining love stories compete for prominence. Lorna’s romance with a younger man leads the novel, and it is her activities and personality that Alba finds fascinating. Hilarious commentary and imaginative asides create mood as well as atmosphere in scenes that reveal contradiction, hesitancy, and eccentricity … from a cat’s point of view, of course. Heavy on social pondering yet light on lectures, the narrative explores every pathway to potential happiness.

Sophy Burnham is an award-winning author and playwright best known for her inspirational work.

JULIA ANN CHARPENTIER (August 27, 2015)

Simon’s Cat vs. the World

Book Cover
Simon Tofield
Akashic Books
Hardcover $15.95 (96pp)
978-1-61775-188-2
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Single-panel illustrations distill the essence of cat humor into beautifully rendered full-color pages.

Building from an ever-growing base of fans for his Simon’s Cat video and book series, animator, illustrator, and author Simon Tofield pits his feline hero against, well, just about everything, in Simon’s Cat vs. the World.

Boasting over 360 million hits on YouTube, Tofield’s Simon’s Cat cartoon shorts have become an Internet phenomenon, and he has published several volumes of print cartoons. Simon’s Cat vs. the World features the eponymous cat in a number of full-page gags, each specifying the “enemy” in a small caption. For example, on the “holly” page, the cat struggles to scale a large, sharp-edged holly bush in an effort to reach the birds comfortably perched at the top who are flinging berries at him as he climbs. In “the wheelie bin,” we see the cat in mid-flight, having leaped up to reach a bird on top of an open garbage bin. His expression, as he realizes he’s destined to land in the garbage bin, brings to mind Wile E. Coyote (from The Looney Tunes Show), and it’s just as funny.

If bushes and bins seem somewhat pedestrian as topics of humor, that seems to be Tofield’s point. The laughs are grounded in the reality of everyday life with a cat, and the many mini-adventures that fill their time. Tofield’s images capture the funny moments perfectly, from the cat’s dead-on curious pawing at objects to its lazy sprawl while sunbathing or enjoying heat from a convenient radiator. Not all of the joke subjects are so obvious, with topics such as “public affection” (one dog sniffing another, as Simon’s Cat covers the eyes of an innocent kitten). It’s here that Tofield stretches the range of his cat character, expanding beyond the level of common observation of cat behavior.

The Simon’s Cat videos are notable for their physical comedy, something that might seem difficult to translate into print. But in Simon’s Cat vs. the World, little is lost—these single-panel illustrations distill the essence of cat humor into beautifully rendered full-color pages. This is a visual book, with minimal text, and those looking for word-heavy humor such as what’s found in the daily newspaper comic pages might be disappointed at first. But if readers take the time to savor Tofield’s drawings, the laughs will come.

PETER DABBENE (November 30, 2013)

Moo Kitty Finds a Home

Book Cover
Valerie Lee Veltre
Squidgy Press
Hardcover $16.95 (59pp)
978-1-60800-010-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Black-and-white Moo Kitty is living the sweet life until his beloved human companion passes away. When the house is cleaned out, he’s left to fend for himself for the first time. Alone and frightened, he is visited one night by three feline guardian angels who tell him not to lose heart. Soon after, he is found by an animal shelter volunteer and given a safe place to stay and await adoption. Moo Kitty is an adult and many of the shelter cats are much younger; the more kittens leave for new homes, the more Moo fears he won’t ever find one of his own. One day a family comes to the shelter and it’s love at first sight. Moo Kitty goes home and settles in with a new family in his new home. All ends well.

Moo Kitty Finds a Home is intended to educate families about the benefits of adopting an adult pet from an animal shelter. There are several pages at the end explaining the process, tips for easing the animal into its new home, things to watch for, and other encouraging comments. The book is illustrated by Liz Leonard, and her bold, bright style brings the animals in the story to life. Author Valerie Lee Veltre based the story on a cat her family adopted, and notes at the end that the “real” Moo Kitty is still alive and well, and happy with this new home and family. It’s a sweet touch.

While this is ultimately an upbeat story and the title gives away the happy ending, young children may find scenes where Moo Kitty is sad, frightened, and discouraged upsetting. The book may also beg discussion of what “passing away” means, although having Moo Kitty’s companion walk away from a house in foreclosure would be no simpler to explain. Bearing those concerns in mind, Moo Kitty Finds a Home would be an ideal way to start a conversation about adopting an older pet, and the tips at the end can help kids be part of the process of welcoming the animal to its new home, and helping it to feel safe and loved.

HEATHER SEGGEL (February 29, 2012)

Kitty Cornered

How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made It Their Home

Book Cover
Bob Tarte
Algonquin Books
Softcover $13.95 (304pp)
978-1-56512-999-3
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

In his humorous new book about his life with six felines, Tarte writes, “By then I had long since recovered from my early misconception that cats were either devious creatures or as mellow as stuffed toys. They were both, and much more. In fact, they were as complicated as any person that I’d ever met and more intelligent than most people, too. But I refused to think of myself as a cat person. That was going a step too far.”

When a story opens with a cast list of the cats in the house and a map of the spaces they commandeer, readers quickly surmise that this is not a typical cat book. It is instead an affectionate look at the idiosyncrasies of each creature, as well as the author’s weaknesses regarding them. Although Tarte and his wife already shared space with ducks, geese, rabbits, parakeets, and parrots, they befriend stray felines until six of them are living in the same house.

The narrative is a delightful analysis of each cat—from Agnes, the resident matriarch of the house, who tolerates little from anyone, to Frannie and Tina, the latest arrivals in the menagerie. Like any proud parent, Tarte does seem to have his favorites, particularly Frannie, “a nervous white-and-black stray who insists on being petted while she eats.”

The author extols the virtues and vices of each animal, providing readers with a well-rounded viewpoint of life with this many pets. Lucy is incapable of properly using a litter box and Mabel, a wrongly named male cat who quickly becomes Maynard, wails if he is not petted on an almost constant basis. When Moobie is diagnosed with cancer and must wear a head funnel to keep from licking a wound, she becomes a “feline sun burning brightly in a terrible cosmic void—the countenance of a fussy cat goddess commanding tribute from her human subjects.” The author also shows the compassionate side of these creatures and, in turn, his own compassion and the great lengths to which he and his wife go when one and then another of their charges is hurt or ill.

Cat lovers will readily relate to Tarte’s insistence that cats are as individualistic and quirky as humans, while non-cat lovers will gain a deeper appreciation for these animals and the people who live with them. Foul Weather, of 2009, is Tarte’s previous book.

LEE E. CART (February 29, 2012)

The Little Big Book of Cats

Book Cover
Alice Wong, editor
Lena Tabori, editor
Welcome Books
Hardcover $24.95 (352pp)
978-1-932183-80-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

“A cat’s a cat and that’s that” proclaims the old folk saying, but readers will find there is much more to it when they delve into this twenty-fourth book in the Little Big Books series. Fiction and nonfiction stories about cats are intertwined with poetry, jokes, games, trivia, and tips for clicker training and proper cat care. Famous felines like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire-Cat reside alongside less well-known characters, such as the many barn cats of Mrs. Bond, a client of veterinarian/author James Herriot, who describes her unique style of calling each cat to her by name.

Even politics has its place here, with then Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson’s veto of the “Act to Provide Protection to Insectivorous Birds by Restraining Cats” on the grounds that “the State of Illinois and its local governing bodies already have enough to do without trying to control feline delinquency.”

Editor Tabori is the publisher of Welcome Books, and Wong is a project director for that publisher who has edited numerous titles, including The Little Big Book for Moms and The Little Big Book for Grandmothers. What sets this book apart from other, similar volumes is that its entertainment value is matched by its practicality for both prospective and current cat owners. There are cat-care tips on everything from choosing a pet food and giving medication to brushing and bathing. The valuable instructions for “clicker training” for both tricks and behavior modification start with the basics of acclimating the cat to the clicker-and-treat model and grow in difficulty to teaching a cat to pick up objects in its mouth and stay off the counter.

Directions for creating homemade toys and games are sprinkled throughout, along with recipes for treats that cats will find irresistible. An easy toy that mixes play with treats is the Kitty Kong. The editors note that the popular Kong dog toys are too heavy for cats to enjoy, but a low-tech version made by spreading peanut butter or Cheez Whiz inside an empty toilet paper tube is perfect for hours of play.

The short entries make this book ideal for picking up to read whenever there are just a few minutes available, like on bus rides or while waiting at the doctor’s office, and the vintage illustrations add to the warm feeling that this book conveys. As many cat owners know, a good sense of humor goes a long way in living compatibly with an animal known for its independent and often haughty attitude. Any book that looks to match the mind-set of a serious cat owner must also have its share of humor: “How many cats does it take to screw in a light bulb? BIRMAN CAT: ‘Puh-leeez, dahling. I have servants for that kind of thing.’”

That Cat Can’t Stay

Book Cover
Thad Krasnesky
David Parkins, illustrator
Flash Light Press
Unknown $16.95 (32pp)
978-0-9799746-5-6
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

A winning tale, in verse, about a family that keeps finding cats that need a home, and a tough-talking dad whose heart wins out every time. As the number of cats in the family keeps rising, the repetition and expansion of Dad’s rant gets funnier and funnier, and begs for chanting in unison, louder and louder, by reader and listeners. The illustrations add to the humor while making it clear that everyone, including Dad, has a lot of love to give and room for one more soul.

Gracie the Lighthouse Cat

Book Cover
Ruth Brown
Andersen Press
Hardcover $16.95 (32pp)
978-0-7613-7454-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

An English shipwreck in 1838 serves as the backdrop for this intimate story of another rescue—that of a mother cat’s search for her curious kitten, lost in the same turbulent storm. The book’s finely drawn watercolor illustrations work well in concert with the story’s simple words to fully communicate the fear, confusion, and, ultimately, relief attending such a scene. Terms like “cozy” and “parlor” shine like beacons in this tale, reminding the more fortunate among us that there’s no place like home. Ages four to nine.

The Cat Lover’s Book of Days: A Year of Cat History, Lore, and Laughter

Peg Silloway the cat lover’s book of days: a year of cat history, lore, and laughter

Ursa Books / The Silloway Press
Hardcover $19.95 (384pp)
978-0-9802057-4-9

If you have ever loved and been owned by a cat, this book is for you. Each of the book’s days is all about cats—the unique names we give them (or they choose), the famous people who have hosted them, and their place in history, myth, and magic. The Cat Lover’s Book of Days is a gift-quality book that will give many days and years of reading pleasure. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who has ever been a cat’s person…including you.


Hannah Hohman
Hannah Hohman is an editorial assistant at Foreword Reviews. You can contact her at hannah@forewordreviews.com.

Hannah Hohman

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