Jan/Feb 2020  •   Reviews & Interviews

Simon's Cat: It's A Dog's Life

Review by Ann Skea

Simon's Cat: It's A Dog's Life.
Simon Tofield.
Allen & Unwin, Canongate. 2019.
ISBN 978 1 78689 700 8.

If you know Simon's cat from Simon Tofield's Internet cartoons, you will know what a quirky, inquisitive, funny, and typically cat-like cat she is (I assume it is a she, since a kitten sometimes appears). So, now that she is learning about dogs for the first time, you can imagine what might happen. Things are unlikely to go smoothly.

Dogs, as Simon Tofield shows in the end-papers of the book, come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are alert and eager; some, like the happy poodle covered in bits of ripped pink balloon, are crazy; and some are happily comatose, flat out on the floor. Simon's cat, almost hidden in the middle of them, looks confused and apprehensive. Her kitten, between a Scottie-dog and a big, eager mongrel, just waits for the fun to begin.

At first, it is a love affair. Simon's cat smooches with an amiable dog, and love—in little hearts—is in the air. The dog clearly loves Simon's cat, too, and gives her a nice, sloppy lick. End of romance!

From there on, it is all a learning experience on both sides. Simon Tofield (who now appears to own a dog and puppies as well as his cat and kitten) has clearly learned a lot from his cats and dogs, and he uses their characteristic differences to create some wonderfully funny situations.

I especially love the results when he decides to take his cat and his dog for a walk, each of them on a lead. Their reactions are typical cat and dog behavior, and anyone who owns a cat or a dog will recognize it. But clearly, a few pages later, Simon has solved the problem.

Simon's cat encounters poodles, bulldogs, big dogs, small dogs, annoying puppies, energetic tail-wagers, long-eared hounds, dumb dogs and smart dogs. She camouflages herself to join a pack of Dalmatians racing across a double page, and she invents various doggy methods of transport, some more successful than others.

Tofield shows her trying to puzzle out what on earth dogs are thinking when, for example, they catch balls, fetch things, and jump through hoops. Often she uses this behaviour to her own advantage. But sometimes the dog wins.

Once again surrounded by dogs on the end-page and inside back cover of the book, and confronted by an alert King Charles Spaniel wearing a crown, Simon's cat still looks confused, but her kitten is ready to play ball.

Tofield gives each of his cats and dogs a distinct and recognizable personality, and they are full of life and full of fun. This is a delightful book.


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