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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Doodled Cats by Gemma Correll

Thank you to Netgalley, Quarto Publishing Group, and Gemma Correll for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

After having so much fun with my copy of Doodled Dogs, I wanted to check out Doodled Cats as well. This book is worth purchasing just for Gemma Correll’s drawings which are so funny and display so much personality. With just a few strokes, Correll can make cats happy, sad, snarky, or content.

The format and structure of Doodled Cats and Doodled Dogs is similar. Doodled Cats has four parts–Part I: All About Cats (the cat-toid spread is very wry but I learned some new information about cats, too), Part II: Doodled Cats Step by Step, Part III: It’s a Cat’s World, and Part IV: Cat Doodle Templates. The Bonus Project describes how to make a doodled cat coffee mug and is the same bonus project in Doodled Dogs.

My favorite section presents the step-by-step drawings. Correll has written instructions paired with drawings, and in each drawing what you are supposed to do is in red and what was done in a previous stage is in black. The instructions are easy to follow and definitely fun. Even though I am an atrocious artist, my doodled cats have a cuteness about them. (But boy, the Sphynx was hard for me!)

Sample doodles show cats in hats, cats in clothing, anthropomorphic cats, cats doing activities, and, of course, cats in boxes! Several pages have “plain” cat doodles so that you can decorate them with the accessories or patterns you choose.

In pages that make me laugh out loud, Correll collects classic cat-dog illustrations paired with perfectly hilarious captions. Perhaps my favorite has one of Correll’s famous pugs saying to a cat in earmuffs, “Will you be my girlfriend?” “Can’t hear you,” replies the cat.

I have purchased several how-to art books, and Correll’s are the only ones I’ve read where I’ve had lots of fun with the text and activities. Doodled Cats is perfect for so many people: Gemma Correll fans, cat lovers, and people who enjoy doodling/zentangle books.

BOOK REVIEW: Sammy in the Fall by Anita Bijsterbosch

Thank you to NetGalley and Clovis Publishing, Inc. for providing an advance readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Sammy in the Fall follows kitty Sammy and his horse companion, Hob, as they find adventures on a rainy, fall day. They pick apples, rake leaves, collect chestnuts, jump in rain puddles, and read a book before bed.

I absolutely loved the illustrations. They are colorful and drawn in a style that really appeals to me. The backgrounds are full of details like little animals, birds, and toys, and I can imagine a child exploring the pictures with delight. However, there are some missed opportunities as well. On one page, the text asks the reader to find baby hedgehogs asleep in their nests, but this is the only explicitly interactive prompt in the text.

The books’ weakness is its narrative. Sammy and Hobs engage in a chain of unrelated events, and not all of them are exclusively associated with fall (such as taking a walk, making crafts, or playing in puddles). The story suffers from a lack of a unifying theme.

The hard copy has a half-page feature that hides then reveals illustrations but it was difficult to see this in the e-book.