Three cats and their human companions explore the San Francisco Bay Area in these fanciful illustrated stories.
In her debut collection for children, Conlan, aka “The Flannel Cat,” weaves together seven interlocking tales of cats named Storm, November, and Roy, interspersed with famous poems, such as Carl Sandburg’s “Fog,” and whimsical, albeit inexpert, colored-pencil drawings. Each story offers particulars of the cats’ lives before they were adopted by “The Top Cat” (their human owner), and they effectively characterize each animal. Storm, for example, was visiting San Francisco with her family from Paris as a “young girl-cat,” when she got lost and ended up in a shelter; she still sings a French ditty whenever she’s nervous. November, or “Novy,” was a sickly kitten who now practices yoga and eats vegetarian foods—and passes gas a lot. Roy, or “Gray Wolf,” wandered away from his indigenous Pamo family, which taught him “how to survive in the wilderness—that was why he wore a backpack.” Together, the cats explore San Francisco’s Pier 39, almost fall off the Golden Gate Bridge, are treed by wild boars on Mt. Tamalpais, and ride trains and build sandcastles at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. By the middle of the book, however, the repetitious plotlines involving lost-and-found cats grow tiresome. The illustrations of cats in yoga poses and riding on roller coasters are inherently fun in their subject matter. However, the artwork itself seems unskilled, detracting from rather than enhancing the story. Excessive details about the history of each location slow the action and often read like a San Francisco Bay Area travelogue. By the final story, which devotes too much text to descriptions of a Honda Element and its license plate, readers’ attention will have wandered like an adventure-seeking feline’s.
A book with charming characters weighed down by repetitive storylines and excessive exposition.