March 14, 2019
(++++) KITTY NEWS CREWS
Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News That Matters to Cats. By Georgia Dunn. Andrews McMeel. $12.99.
Lupin Leaps In: A “Breaking Cat News” Adventure. By Georgia Dunn. Andrews McMeel. $9.99.
Imagine the unimaginable: think about giving cats microphones, an anchor desk and their very own news broadcasts. Then imagine what they would report on, and how. In Georgia Dunn’s words and art, the whole notion becomes, well, unimaginably funny. And when you think about it, it actually makes a weird kind of sense. After all, we humans report on news that matters to humans, don’t we? You will rarely see a story about, say, a wildebeest’s view of the predator-prey relationship. Our stories relate to us, so of course cat news stories would relate to cats – involving humans only incidentally (which is essentially how everything about cats relates to people: only incidentally).
Anyone who lives with cats, and most people who don’t live with them and are pretty sure they know why they don’t, will find Breaking Cat News delightful. Dunn simply takes everyday occurrences in a straightforward human-family setting and has three cats – Lupin, Elvis and Puck – narrate them from a feline viewpoint. In the first book, for example, it is obvious that the cooking of bacon is a major event, bringing all three cats to the kitchen to climb all over everything and question “the Woman” about what she is doing and whether she needs “someone to eat all the bacon.” Actually, having all three cats at the site of a story is unusual, because Lupin usually serves as Breaking Cat News anchor, with Puck and Elvis handling field reporting. But this is, after all, bacon, so all bets are off. Continuing the coverage of what is really important, the cats report that when the couch is moved one day, “amid a pile of worthless people junk, many priceless cat toys – thought lost forever – are being unearthed.” And speaking of the couch, when “the Man” naps on it, “under the fuzzy blanket,” the cats promise that they will “be covering this story closely all afternoon,” which they mean literally: the three climb onto the blanket as the man remains asleep, and they take peaceful, extended cat naps on top of the blanket covering him, while wearing their news-reporter clothing (jackets and ties), their cat-sized microphones cast carelessly aside in the name of relaxation.
The point of all this is that, whatever else they may be – reporters, news anchors, explorers of the house and its environs – they are first and foremost cats. And what Dunn does so well is to have them retain catlike ideas and personalities even while assuming the very human jobs of broadcast journalists. This probably works as well as it does because Breaking Cat News is so closely based on Dunn’s own human-and-feline family – even the cartoon cats’ names are identical to those of Dunn’s real-life cat companions. It is obvious that Dunn has really lived through scenes such as the one in which the cats panic because “the vacuum is out,” with Lupin hiding behind the anchor desk, Elvis pressing tightly against “the Woman,” and Puck announcing, “I’m live under the bed and I’m not coming out.” Yes, the cats’ outfits are exaggerations, but the whole setup seems just like what cats would do in the way of news if they could.
The second book, Lupin Leaps In, offers more of the same with even better art. For example, Lupin offers to “gently high five” the man’s face to encourage him as he is “practicing [his] pouncing” (which is what push-ups look like to cats). And in an extended series – the stories are usually short, so this one is an exception – Elvis decides to investigate the outdoors while it is snowing, gets lost, and is rescued by Tommy, a stray cat who initially appeared in the first book (wanting to get into the house) and who turns out to be lost and to have people of his own. The way Elvis eventually comes home and then helps Tommy reunite with his people is just the sort of heartwarming story that fits the Christmastime setting of this tale perfectly. This is also a book in which babies become a bigger part of the cats’ lives (well, and the people’s lives, too). The birth of a child near the end of the first book provokes the expected feline response: “It’s going to eat all our food and no one will ever love us again.” But things are going somewhat better than that in the second book, at least until “the baby is mobile!” Then the cats have trouble figuring things out: “How is he so fast? He’s like a tiny cheetah!” They also have difficulty understanding every “people holiday” they encounter – and no wonder, since their people keep dressing them up in costumes that look hilarious but are distinctly un-catlike. For instance, Elvis wears a shirt for St. Patrick’s Day that says “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” but his comment to “the Woman,” who put the shirt on him, is “Don’t touch me. I’m Siamese.” By the end of the second book, major things have happened. The cats have had a laundry-room encounter with “the ceiling cats,” who live upstairs and speak Spanish – this is another extended sequence, and one in which the misunderstandings are distinctly feline and entirely appropriate. And there is a second human baby in the family by this book’s end – this time, a girl, with whom Elvis (who did not think much of the first baby) falls immediately and completely in love, declaring, “This baby is perfect and I’ll never let anything happen to her.” Human-protecting instincts in cats? Well, yes – they may not be strongly in evidence most of the time, but they are certainly there under some circumstances. Clearly Dunn is well aware of this, and makes sure that readers of Breaking Cat News are aware of it, too. It is all good, clean fun – except when things get messy, of course, as they often do when cats are around. The cleverness of Dunn’s plotting and drawing will have readers hoping for much more of Lupin, Puck and Elvis in the future. And that’s the way it is.