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Book Review: Simon’s Cat: Feed Me! by Simon Tofield

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The Internet belongs to cats, we all know it.

From the lolz crowd to the “Texts from Catwoman” parody of the Hillary Clinton meme, from “our new feline overlords” that took over DeviantArt on April Fool’s Day to the ones who took over a certain pop-up blocker (and were so popular that users begged the maker to make it a permanent change)…

Cats rule the internetCats.  Own.  The Net. 
Always have; always will.

And if you mention that to a cat-lover who is active on any social network, I guarantee they will point you to a video of Simon’s Cat.  Most of us met the adorable furball in an animated short called “Cat Man Do,” in which he displays every house cat’s early morning priority: getting his owner to wake up and serve breakfast.

Cat Man Do went viral before videos went viral, and the reason was simplicity itself: someone had actually seen a cat.  The little tenderizing-you two-step, the warp-speed zip to the edge of the bed to be found innocently napping when all hell broke loose, and of course that shampoo simple priority: Feed Me.  Somebody had actually seen a cat.




Like any cat-loving netizen, I squealed with delight whenever a new Simon’s Cat video came out.  I’d race to watch it, watch it again, send the link to all my friends and then watch it a third time.  I was sad that new intallments were so few and far between, but quality takes time, and the next outing of artist-animator-catspaw Simon Tofield was always worth the wait.

I recently made that same delighted squealing sound, not for a video this time but on learning that Simon’s Cat’s quest for sustenance had made the leap offline into book form.  Simon’s Cat: Feed Me! will be released next month (May, 2012) and the mischievous kitten has lost none of his creativity in the jump from animation to the printed page.  From disguising himself as a birdhouse to perusing a sushi menu next to a koi pond, this is the ingenuity we have come to expect and the cat we have known and loved.

While all of the illustrations of award-winning artist and animator Simon Tofield are all entertaining, the book does lose a bit of its edge when it removes Simon from the equation.  The appeal of the videos was not “Hey, it’s a Cat” but “Simon’s Cat.”  It is the interaction between Simon and his pet, the quest to get food and attention from him,  and Simon’s plight trying to live out his life while sharing his home with the Machiavellian meal-obsessed plotter that is the essence of the videos’ humor.  Too much of “Feed Me” is, in fact, Simon’s Cat trying to feed himself.  It’s all cute, but those bits are really no different from a thousand Warner Bros. cartoons of decades past, pitting humorous predator against prey in absurdly improbable vignettes.  Sylvester and Tweety, Tom and Jerry, Coyote and Road Runner.  Wile E. Coyote had the ACME catalog, and Simon’s Cat straps on a fake beak and covers himself in spots to camouflage himself among the birds.

Simon does make his share of appearances in Feed Me, and that is when the panels really take off.  Brilliantly drawn and laugh-out-loud funny.  Not the absurd (and doomed) plots of a latter day Tom or Sylvester, but a heightened version of the dramas that play out in our own homes every day.  Our cats do not (as far as I know) use a blow torch to open cans of cat food.  They do manage to “point” to another culprit when something has been broken, overturned or (in the case of fish) murdered.  They interrupt our favorite programs, tear up our sofas, and make us stand at the sink so they can drink from the faucet.  We probably look just like Simon when it happens.  And we love them anyway.

Simon’s Cat: Feed Me by Simon Tofield is published by Canongate UK, distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing. 

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