BOOK REVIEW: Tiptop Cat, gorgeous illustrations compromised by lackluster narrative

Tiptop Dog w Tiptop CatTiptop Cat
Written and Illustrated by C. Roger Mader

A little girl receives Tiptop Cat for her birthday, and he loves his new home. In fact, his favorite place is the roof where he can see across the tops of buildings all the way to the Eiffel Tower. One afternoon, a bird dared alight on the cat’s balcony. He jumped at her…and fell…down…down…down…down. Miraculously, he was uninjured but he lost his confidence. That is, until he saw another bird in his domain.

The illustrations in Tiptop Cat are absolutely gorgeous and very life-like, and were my favorite part of this book. On some spreads, they are presented in panels, like in comic strips. (I’m of two minds about this. It’s different and interesting, providing some sense of forward movement, but the small size of the images detracts from their effect). The text on the pages is often presented in unusual places which I also thought was a fun detail.

Tiptop Cat Collage

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I expected for two reasons. First, Tiptop cat regains his mojo not because of anything he did or thought but just because of instinct when he saw another bird on the roof. I thought this was a missed opportunity to model to children how they might be able to recover after a setback.

Second, and here I am being pedantic, but I think it is a bad idea to legitimize allowing cats outside. Outdoor cats have a shorter lifespan due to things like predators, cars, and, ahem, falls. Additionally, outdoor cats threaten birds and native wildlife. Organizations like American Humane and the American Bird Conservancy, and Audubon all call for responsible cat owners to keep their cats indoors for their own safety and that of the ecosystem. (It is a complete myth that indoor cats are unhappy!)

So, thumbs up for the art in Tiptop Cat, thumbs down for the message.

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