Book Review of Taro & Tomi: My Feline Son and Daughter by Shizue Tomoda
Copyright © by Jessica Schneider, 1/24/08
For anyone out there who is a cat lover, I’d like to recommend this short yet delightful story about a woman adopting her 2 cats and her experiences with them. From demanding attention, to plopping on desks while work needs to be done, to being warm and affectionate to then turning cold and distant, the story begins with her adoption of her male cat Taro. From fleas, to getting him settled into her apartment, to his unconditional love, this book briefly chronicles the development of the human-cat relationship.
The book is short—only 118 pages divided into 40 chapters, yet there are also adorable illustrations by Edwin Batawala that give this story a child like feel. Each chapter is contained and deals with a different anecdote, such as Tomoda installing a cat flap and teaching him how to use it, to Taro stepping on a hot stove, to even falling into the toilet.
Anyone who has had affection for an animal could certainly appreciate this story, which can be easily read in one sitting and also appreciated by a young adult as well. Later in the tale, Tomoda decides to adopt a female kitten that unfortunately lives only a very short life, but she (Tomi) and Taro quickly bond, forming a brother-sister relationship. Ultimately the kitten dies possibly from having been removed from her mother too early and Tomoda is left to grieve, and of course, express some hesitation towards adopting another kitten.
Ultimately, she adopts another female, who happens to be a stray, and she also names her Tomi. Tomi #2 and Taro bond once again, yet Tomi remains somewhat distant towards her owner and is not as affectionate as Taro. The 2 cats learn to respect one another’s space, as well as their space when it comes to their owner (Tomi prefers the foot of the bed while Taro goes by the pillow).
This book doesn’t read like a manual and hence it isn’t told from a scientific point of view—just from an owner who loves her cats and wants to share the stories they’ve given her. As a cat lover myself, I have often engaged in conversation with other cat lovers as we listen to each other’s cat stories. Reading this tale felt like listening to someone disclose their cat tales to me—many of which I’ve experienced myself. It was also interesting to note some of the patterns of behavior cats will have towards their owners when they leave them for any extended time. In one scene, Tomoda speaks about how when she returned from one of her two week trips, Taro was distant towards her—as though he’d been hurt emotionally by her having “left him” (although she had someone come by to feed and check the litter).
One scene that resonated with me was when she was describing herself sitting in a chair and reading a novel that brought her to tears. It was only then a matter of moments before Taro was stroking her hair as a means for comforting her. I recall once my big chubby cat Oscar doing the same. He actually meowed his throaty meow at me, then got off his comfy chair, and plopped in my lab and began to purr. Cats definitely know when their people are unhappy and they like to participate in comforting (and if they get rubbed while doing so then so be it).
Taro & Tomi is a tough book not to like. It is a definite “heart-tugger” without being sappy or trite. I have to admit that when I read the part about the first Tomi dying, my sight blurred a bit. But what else can one expect from a fellow cat lover?
This review is likewise dedicated to all the cats I’ve ever loved.
[An expurgated version of this article originally appeared on The Moderate Voice website.]
Return to Bylines