Reviewed by Jeanne
I remember having my grandmother read comic strips from the newspaper to me as a very young child. Her favorite strip was, predictably, one called “Grandma” which featured an elderly woman who is still young at heart. I’ve followed various strips for decades; I have my old favorites but I am always on the lookout for new ones to enjoy.
Sometime around 2011, I stumbled across a web comic called “Breaking Cat News” and it was love at first read. The premise is that the cats are little reporters who inform about “News of Interest to Cats.” They wear little jackets and ties, have a news desk, and carry microphones. The People of the house have no idea this is going on, of course. The characters are fully developed, from rambunctious Lupin who is deaf and therefore has no idea that he sounds like a small pony as he races around the house to neurotic Elvis, a Siamese who is very hard to please and to Puck, a sweet and gentle black cat who wants everyone to get along. The cast has continued to expand to include the People’s growing family (the boy and the baby), cats outside the household (including the titular Tommy, who lives in the neighborhood and who reports on doings outside the house), and various other characters: the robber mice, Trevor the dog, ghosts, and so forth.
The comic was picked up by Gocomics.com, bringing it to a wider audience. It has since been syndicated in newspapers across the country, but in the traditional three panel format which limits the way the story is told.
Take It Away, Tommy picks up where the other two collections left off: Breaking Cat News (reviewed earlier) and Lupin Leaps In. However, you don’t have to have read those to enjoy this one. There is a basic sweetness to the strip that I find endearing and addictive; they’re fun and feel good without being saccharine or sappy. It reminds me of Mutts by Patrick McDonnell, another strip I adore, and like Mutts, there’s the occasional gentle lesson thrown in.
While I think anyone would enjoy the strip, cat owners—or should that be staff?—will find much to be familiar, as when there is a report of bacon in the kitchen. Naturally, the entire news staff goes to investigate this possibly delicious story. This particular book also has the Halloween story beloved by those who followed the strip online. The story ran over several weeks, beginning with a little ghost cat who appears but is only seen by some of the cats. Our intrepid reporters are on the case, and the ending is wonderfully satisfying. I was especially glad to see this one as it was not adaptable into the newspaper format; three small panels just wouldn’t work. However, the rest of the strips are equally good. Another favorite is Christmas, when Puck informs the audience that people LOVE to decorate the Christmas tree, so he advises all cats to remove the ornaments each night so they will continue to have that joy each day. Then there’s “Vacuum Awareness Week” in which the Breaking Cat News team advises the audience what to do if a vacuum cleaner appears and offers a sage rhyme of advice: “If it’s not a broom, leave the room.”
The books are marketed to middle school children as are many family friendly strips these days: that’s where sales are most brisk. Don’t assume they’re just for kids any more than the Peanuts gang.
This book is highly recommended and I have bought my own copy so I can dip into it again and again.