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A longtime reader wrote to ask if everything’s okay. He was concerned because I post here so rarely.
Everything is okay! My stepdaughter, Autumn, turned twenty-one! Often I still think of her as the little waving girl in the photo above. But she is an astounding young woman, a clear and compassionate thinker, a poet, a gift, my only child. Also, my goddaughter and her mom moved away. I miss them tons. And my cats died, a few months apart. Oof, as my friend Carrie says. That was sad.
Right now there’s a blizzard outside. I’m drinking water and tea and working on my book, which is usually what I’m doing, unless I haven’t refilled the water and tea recently.
The manuscript is due in 2016, and I asked for regular installment deadlines with my editor to keep myself on task, and I’m so busy writing that I actually got excited when an app I use to keep myself from wasting time online malfunctioned for a few weeks. It cut off my access to half the Internet, including this very site. I’m also working on a related profile-essay thing that’s taking me a long time to finish to my satisfaction, and I’m very excited about it. And I’ve been doing a lot of weird, wide-rangingreading, which I’m sure will all be reflected in my book, if you’ve missed my meandering fixations.
Millions of Cats. Wanda Gag. 1928. Penguin. 40 pages. [Source: Library]
Once upon a time there was a very old man and a very old woman. They lived in a nice clean house which had flowers all around it, except where the door was. But they couldn't be happy because they were so very lonely. "If we only had a cat!" sighed the very old woman. "A cat?" asked the very old man. "Yes, a sweet little fluffy cat," said the very old woman. "I will get you a cat, my dear," said the very old man. And he set out over the hills to look for one.
Millions of Cats is a Newbery Honor book from 1929.
Premise/Plot: A very old man and a very old woman long for a cat. The husband goes on a quest to bring back a "sweet little fluffy cat" to please them both. Is his quest successful? Yes. A little too successful. For in fact he finds
Cats here, cats there, Cats and kittens everywhere, Hundreds of cats, Thousands of cats, Millions and billions and trillions of cats.
How is he ever to choose just ONE cat from so many?! Especially since as he picks up or pets each one he sees, he finds it to be the prettiest cat. He can't bring himself to leave any of the cats behind. But it isn't practical to bring home hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, and trillions of cats. You can probably guess what his wife's response will be! Surely, they can't keep them all. For better or worse, he lets the cats decide amongst themselves. One scrawny cat remains, but, it may be the best one of all.
My thoughts: I loved this one growing up. I loved the repetition. I thought it was a fun story. I didn't--at the time--take the man's conclusion that the trillions of cats ate each other up literally. Is the book violent? Perhaps. Perhaps not. See for yourself. "They bit and scratched and clawed each other and made such a great noise that the very old man and the very old woman ran into the house as fast as they could. They did not like such quarreling." This one might pair well with Eugene Field's "The Duel." (The gingham dog and the calico cat).
Have you read Millions of Cats? Did you like it? love it? hate it?
I'm starting it off by painting a lot of dark little paintings. You may be able to tell what I'm up to here, but I won't spill all the beans yet, and instead will talk about how I'm painting them, and how they're kind of giving me fits.
My plan was to do these with watercolors on illustration board.
So I went into my supply closet, where I knew I had a whole box of boards (Strathmore 500 Series). But when I opened the box, . . . it was empty! Somewhere along the line I'd pulled out the last board; but because the box is a sturdy, very boxy box, I didn't even notice there was nothing left in it except for some liner boards (and whatever they built the box with to make it sturdy enough to ship fancy illustration board across the country without it getting damaged).
And so onto Plan B. I wanted to get these started, and didn't want to wait for new board to arrive, so I dug out some Arches watercolor paper. Which is really beautiful paper. But its very bumpy. And kind of rough. And I'm trying to get used to painting on it.
The piece above has several layers of different blacks, but still isn't quite what I wanted the finished 'look' to be.
With this next one, I did a bit less, and somewhere along the way figured out I will still need to add some colored pencil to get the final look I want.
So then I started doing just a base layer of color, without worrying so much about modeling the form or any details, which let me relax a little and enjoy just putting some paint down. The 'splotchy' look is driving me crazy though. I wet an area, then apply the paint (see, I do know how to do this properly), but am still getting uneven-ness. It wouldn't kill me to use a larger brush, which would probably fix the problem. But like I said, I now know I'm going to go over it with pencil, so that will even it all out.
I can see I need to fix the buttons on this one, because they're not lined up right. (How did that happen?)
The paper warps, which drives me insane. I am too lazy to stretch it, and don't want to tape it down either (these are really small little pieces.) I learned all that stuff in art school, and remember running whole sheets of paper under the tap in the bathtub, then taping them down to a board to dry overnight. !!!!! I just don't have the patience for that anymore (but do have the patience to fiddle endlessly with a 00 brush or needle sharp pencil point - so go figure).
Anyways, that's what I'm up to. And I'm not complaining, really! I'm just sharing. I'm actually having fun, and am looking forward to getting these finished.
I hope the new year is starting off well for you. So far so good here. I confess I was happy to get back in the swing of things after the holidays. Its all fun, and emotionally uplifting, but also exhausting. There comes a point when you just can't eat one more cookie or fat-laden thing, and anything red and green and sparkly makes you twitch, and you know you're done. Amirite?
I did have one bit of drama for Christmas, involving a kitty. I'll copy it here as I recounted in on Facebook, if you're interested (and haven't already read it). It has a happy ending, and won't even make you cry or anything, so its an easy read. And with that I'll say good night, and go back to my little black paintings. Good night!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
* * Christmas Miracle * *
On Christmas EveEve, Tracy kitty got himself stuck in a Barnes & Noble plastic bag, with the handle around his body. He freaked out because he couldn't get away from the crackling bag noise, and although hysterically funny to watch at first (just because it was only a stupid plastic bag), it quickly turned serious as he dashed madly around the house, knocking stuff over, then out the cat door. I heard him and the crackling bag whoosh past the front window and off down the street, poor thing, madly trying to run away from the bag.
So I put on shoes, got the flashlight, and even though I was trying to hurry, felt like the slowest moving beast on the planet - he was long gone, down the street who knows how far and to who knows where? I went to the end of the block, but how did I know which way he turned? He could be blocks away already. I trudged home, simultaneously thinking "Oh, he'll be alright", and "I'll never see that cat again".
A long evening, then sleepless night passed, with me imagining every awful thing that could happen to a cat with a plastic bag attached to himself, and listening for any sound of him coming in the cat door, and getting up more than once to check to see if he'd snuck in. All his beds were empty, and in the morning there was still dry food in the bowl, (its usually totally empty), so I knew he hadn't been back and gone out again.
A long Christmas Eve day of Christmas prep and worrying - no Tracy. Then out to dinner, trying to keep a brave face and smile, and be entertaining to my Mom who was spending the night, doing Christmassy things and just saying "Oh, he's outside somewhere" when she asked about him.
Did I mention I was praying to everyone and anything who might be able to help? Jesus, guardian angels, cats on the Other Side . . . . Mom turned on "Its a Wonderful Life", and I sat in the kitchen, listening to George and Mary and Mr. Potter in the other room, feeling completely miserable.
And then. Twenty four hours after this story began, in the shadows near the cat door, the next room over, I see a little body. At first I thought it was one of my other cats, but then realized they were all accounted for somewhere else in the house. "Tracy?" . . . He'd popped back outside . . . "TRACY?!" again, and he popped back in, and ran right to the 'treat station' (here, next to the computer) and was perfectly fine! Not a scratch on him! Hungry, but not starving, just his regular self, pretty much. Joy! Relief! There was lots of thanking god, jesus, all the others who'd helped bring him back! In the living room, George Bailey was just starting his journey with Clarence, and so I watched and appreciated George's joy at getting his life back, and it really felt like Christmas.
Tracy slept tucked in next to me, right by the pillow, all night, which he's never done before. Santa brought him a new cat nip cigar, and he's been enjoying that and some Christmas sun all morning.
It does feel like a wonderful life today. And I will never let the cats play with plastic bags again. Especially ones from B&N.
Happy New Year, everyone! May 2015 be a fantastic and inspired year for all of us. This morning I woke up to snow, a beautiful and refreshing sight, especially on a day off. The "blank slate" symbolism of seeing vast fields of white outside my windows has also been the perfect backdrop for reviewing the past year as I gear up to experience the new. Some of my 2014 highlights included:
I must have been in the mood to join groups, because I also became a member of the Colored Pencil Society of America.
April found me blogging every day for the 2014 April blog challenge. A fun exercise, but it also taught me how hard it is to be a "daily blogger."
I moved into a new house! We're still in the middle of remodelling, but every day we get a little bit closer to being "finished" (whatever that means . . .).
Following through with my goal of illustrating, I took a fantastic summer class on "Drawing Cats and Dogs." I learned so many valuable tips, especially on the importance of keeping a reference notebook I can take with me wherever I go (no excuses not to draw).
October found me at the SCBWI Albuquerque conference, having a grand time meeting editors and fellow writers.
Which then prompted me to write my first picture book for submission--a task I'll be starting this month.
For some crazy reason I signed up for NaNoWriMo again, and actually reached 50K!
At long last I obtained jewelry tools and supplies and can now officially call myself a "beader."
I started taking a Saturday morning drawing class--which means I have to get up on Saturday mornings (brrrr.) But I love the weekly discipline of joining other artists and focusing on a set project.
My writer's group continued to meet regularly and happily at our new home: the Albuquerque Museum. What a treat it is to go there for writing, friendship, and coffee every other week!
I finished all my edits on my new novel, The Abyssal Plain, preparing it for 2015 submission. Whew.
Reading through this list makes me both happy and already a little nostalgic. The year was imbued with such a sense of new beginnings and creative purpose. I have yet to set my goals and plans for 2015, but they're something I'll be working on this afternoon. As soon as I narrow them down to a do-able list, I'll be sure to let you know. Thanks again for visiting--Happy New Year! Tip of the Day: New Year's Day is such a great time to make notes and road-maps for the days ahead. Several years ago I decided to turn the whole idea of "New Year's resolutions" into one that's more about goal-setting rather than being overly-strict (and restrictive) with myself. This year I'm going to limit myself to just three goals--anything else after that can happen, or not, depending on my time, energy, and circumstances. With that I'm inviting you to join me--what are your three goals for 2015? Feel free to list them under the "comments' section. And have a cup of cocoa while you're there--that's what I'll be doing.Add a Comment
Jake and Elwood
The thing about being a cat person is that you can't go very long without a cat. So when our beloved Pablo passed away earlier this year, it wasn't too long before we went to the local rescue.
These are the new kittens, Jake and Elwood. Pretty cute, huh?
And if that's not enough cuteness, here are some random cat videos for you:
Cat Man Do:
Sad Cat Diary:
I consider myself a war buff. I love reading historic accounts of combat. I don’t discriminate between time period or conflict. Because of the volume of material, I have probably spent more time delving into World War 2 than any other. When I was in the Army, I drove a beat up WW 2 era Deuce-and-a-half and always wondered about its history.
Historians argue about which battle is the greatest – Waterloo, Stalingrad, Hastings, Yorktown, Thermopylae, Guadalcanal, The Battle of the Bulge, the list goes on. Like everything else in life, no one can seem to agree. When compiling such a list, the qualifiers become important. Things such as lives lost, duration, strategies, and conditions all come into play when deciding which is supreme.
It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, I’ve got plenty of those. I just don’t like to argue in general. I get distracted or flustered and lose my place like when I drop my book and reread the same pages over and over again before I figure out where I left off. Only an argument is live, verbal combat. When I lose my place, I sit there open-mouthed wondering if I look as stupid as I feel. So like everyone else on the losing side, I hone in on one point and try to drive it home even if I am totally wrong and know it.
The Baltic Sea is in New Mexico. It isn’t? I will repeat that thirty-seven times, forcing you to get out your phone and Google it, which allows me time to escape the fracas unscathed. I’m gone, therefore I win.
This leads to my opinion of the greatest battle which I believe is a conflict going on today – right now! RIGHT NOW!
You might think I am waxing philosophically about a moral or ethical conflict for the hearts and minds of people. Think again, I’m nowhere near deep enough for that. No, I am talking about the Battle of the Christmas Tree going on in my den as I type.
This battle has two combatants: The cats vs. the presents. The cats investigated the tree the minute it arrived. They united their forces and conquered it quickly. It is now their territory and they are very protective of it. The two of them alternate on watch and have made a formidable occupation force. Their confidence never waned… until the presents arrived.
As presents do, they marched in slowly but steadily. They landed through the front door and also surprised the occupiers from the garage entrance. Strange men in brown uniforms delivered them, but some were brought in by the woman-thing who seems to be working for both sides. She pets and feeds the cats, yet adds to the stack of presents assaulting from every flank. She is a crafty sort. Worse yet, she puts little ribbons on top to lull the cats from their strategic high ground. They can’t avoid the ribbons, which are almost as alluring as the ornaments with bells.
I have no idea who will win this battle. Epic is too small a word for it. The cats seem to rule the night while the presents hold the day (sounds like a Billy Joel song). It is a seesaw affair likely only resolved by the Take the Tree to the Chipper Treaty.
That landmark agreement is coming soon. Until then, may peace reign in your home unlike mine – where it appears to be an elusive dream.
It seems as though all of my friends have new kittens and want to torture me by constantly posting pictures, resulting in a serious case of kitten envy. For various reasons (#1 being my neurotic adult cat), introducing a kitten to my life is not the best plan at the moment, so I’m contenting myself — for now — with a few kitty-centric books.
On the cute-overload side…
I Knead My Mommy and Other Poems by Kittens by Francesco Marciuliano (Chronicle, August 2014)
The latest in Marciuliano’s series of pet-perspective poetry books (I Could Chew on This, I Could Pee on This) features a kitten’s-eye view of the world. Although the brief poems admittedly aren’t great literature, they are frequently funny or touching; one of my favorites is “Not Goodbye”:
I still smell the older cat
On his favorite chair
On his favorite blanket
On his favorite toy
I still smell the older cat
But I can’t find him anywhere
And now his dish is gone
And now his bed is gone
And now you are crying
But I still smell the older cat
So tomorrow I will look again
The poems are accompanied by many super-cute (stock) photos of kittens in all their fuzzy, bobble-headed glory. A good gift book for the crazy cat person on your list.
The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee: The Ultimate Guide to All Things Kitten by Laurie Cinotto (Roaring Brook, March 2014)
Part photo album, part how-to book, this paperback inspired by “kitten wrangler” Cinotto’s blog of the same name introduces several dozen of her previous foster cats as well as basic kitten care and the responsibilities kitten-fostering entails. Instructions for DIY kitten accoutrements, an advice column “written by” adult cat Charlene, comics created with photos and speech bubbles, kid-oriented tips on keeping kittens happy and healthy, and suggestions for helping shelter cats round out this offering. The kitty pics are definitely the main attraction, though; just try not to squee at this one.
On the bizarre-but-kinda-awesome end of the spectrum…
Downton Tabby: A Parody by Chris Kelly (Simon & Schuster, December 2013) Cats make a weirdly appropriate (re)cast for the Edwardian-era BBC drama about an entitled family and their servants: “A Code of Conduct for Cats and Gentlefolk” offers advice such as “Never do anything for yourself that someone else can do for you,” “Communicate disapproval [and affection] with a withering glare,” and “Loaf in a decorative and highly charming manner.” This is a strange and not entirely successful little volume, but the well-dressed hairless cat as the acerbic “Dowager Catness” is pretty spot-on. (Another gem: a diagram of a formal place setting indicating the “mouse fork,” “vole fork,” etc.)
Pre-Raphaelite Cats by Susan Herbert (Thames & Hudson, May 2014)
Possibly even stranger (/cooler) is this collection of cat-ified Pre-Raphaelite portraits. Thirty works by Pre-Raphaelite founders Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais and their followers are reimagined with a variety of anthropomorphized kitty subjects. Some highlights: homages to Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix, John William Waterhouse’s Ophelia, and Edward Burne-Jones‘s The Golden Stairs. Each painting on the recto is accompanied by a few lines of contextual information or a short quotation on the verso; about half the versos include spot line-art of the featured felines. Black-and-white thumbnail reproductions of the original art are appended.
Yesterday was National Cat Day and Marvel celebrated by showing casing these covers by Jenny Park, who specializing in painting famous pop culture characters as cats. How she isn’t a billionaire I don’t know.
Could this possibly be another variant month theme for Marvel? Makes sense doesn’t it.
National Cat DAy was celebrated pretty quietly here at Stately Beat Manor, except by Charlie who overdid it a little and yakked all over the litter mat. And THAT is truly why we celebrate National Cat Day.
Title: Here Comes Santa Cat Written by: Deborah Underwood Illustrated by: Claudia Rueda Published by: Dial Books for Young Readers, Oct 21st, 2014 Suitable for ages: 3-7 Themes: cats, being nice, Christmas, Santa Fiction, small format, 80 pages Opening Lines: … Continue reading →
Light, breezy, rhythmic and upbeat, Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes shares a message of resilience that will appeal to children and adults. Pete begins his day with bright, white new shoes. When he steps onto a pile of strawberries, his shoes turn red and, when he encounters blueberries, his shoes turn blue. Regardless of what poor Pete has to walk through, he maintains his happy outlook. Very popular with young children who enjoy learning and singing about colors, Pete also has a message for older children and adults:
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller
An excellent choice for young readers who will benefit from the repetitive and predictable text, Pete’s coolness is oh so groovy!
Mr Tibbles – a shy reporter on the local newspaper – has been threatened with the sack. It’s perhaps no surprise: Mr Tibbles is mad about cats, and all his stories end up revolving around felines one way or another. What his editor wants, however, is news!
An act of kindness brings Mr Tibbles into contact with Minoe, a rather strange young woman who appears to be able to talk to cats. Through the town’s network of feline pets and strays Minoe starts starts to deliver interesting titbits of exclusive news to Mr Tibbles; cats across the city overhear all sorts of conversations often revealing juicy gossip and insider information, and when Minoe learns of these pieces of news from kitty comrades, she passes them on to her friend the reporter.
Mr Tibble’s job is looking up until he uncovers information which could lead to the downfall of a local powerful businessman. Will the reporter be brave enough to expose the evil goings on? Will he be believed, when his only witnesses are pussy cats?
A funny and yet quietly profound tale of courage, friendship and what it really means to be human, The Cat Who Came in off the Roof, by Annie M. G. Schmidt, translated by David Colmer is a gem of a story. Ideal for fans of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, or cross-species tales of identity such as Stellaluna or Croc and Bird, this book would make an especially good class read-aloud, with lots of opportunities to discuss what life looks like from different perspectives, helping readers and listeners walk in another’s shoes, as well as perhaps learning a thing or to about overcoming shyness, and how to stand up for what you believe in.
From the mangy, feisty stray cat who you end up rooting for, to the hilarious school cat with a penchant for history lessons and a slight;y different (some might say out-dated) understanding of the term ‘news’, Schmidt has populated her story with a super array of characters. The narrative beautifully unfolds with unseen and fine tuning, climaxing with an exciting and rich ending which is deeply satisfying even though not everything is tied up neatly and not all strands end happily. Despite plenty of kittens and purring, this book never patronises its readership.
Knowing the original Dutch language version as we do as a family, I can also comment on the gorgeous translation. Colmer has wittily and cleverly translated linguistic and cultural jokes. His phrase ‘miaow-wow’ for when the cats meet up for a big parley is genius and has now entered our family parlance. If I nitpick I might personally have chosen -thorpe rather than -thorn for the Dutch -doorn, when translating the town’s name but I feel mean mentioning this as Colmer’s voice is pitch-perfect; at no point will you notice the text as a translation for it reads authentically and smoothly.
This must-read book will make you laugh out loud (whether you are a dog person or a cat fan). It will make you feel like for a brief moment you’ve witnessed and understood the best of humanity. It may also make you rather nervous next time you find a cat sitting ever so quietly next to you whilst you are having a private conversation!
I do so hope Pushkin Press are now thinking about translating Schmidt’s earlier work, Ibbeltje, which shares many characteristics with The Cat Who Came in off the Roof and has the added advantage of brilliant illustrations by another glittering star in the Dutch children’s literature firmament: Fiep Westendorp.
For reasons which will become clear upon reading this charming and magical book Minoe not only can speak the language of cats, she is also known to climb trees when dogs approach. It took about a nanosecond for M to decide she wanted to play-by-this-particular-book by climbing as many different trees as she could one afternoon at the weekend. So, armed with a local map (printed from http://www.openstreetmap.org/) we set off to map all the local trees good for climbing in.
Each tree we climbed we identified (it seems that around us oaks, ash and willow are the best climbing trees).
And briefly…. thank you with all my heart to all of you who commented on my last post, or got in touch via email, phone, snail mail and more. Life goes on and plots are being hatched and plans being laid. As and when I can reveal more I’ll be sure to let you know the latest.
The letters “C-A-T” form parts of dozens of words in the English language. Using this as his premise, David Yow has combined his love of both cats and puns in Copycat and a Litter of Other Cats. This unique book shares a cat-inspired phrase with Yow’s drawings of cats in situations representing the pun.
Grumpy Cat, Felix the Cat, Top Cat and Sylvester the Cat make guest appearances, joining Alley Cat, Tomcat, and Bobcat in this parade of bright-eyed cats. Copycat is a fun and whimsical book that any cat lover will enjoy.
The School for Cats. Esther Averill. 1947/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
The School for Cats was originally published in 1947. It is part of a larger series of books starring the (black) cat Jenny Linsky and her friends. The School of Cats is not the first in the series, but, it is the first in the series that my library actually had. In this "Jenny's Cat Club" book, readers meet Jenny as she leaves her home in Greenwich Village to attend school in the country. She is very, very, very unsure about the whole school thing. But her master, Captain Tinker, wants her "to study cat lore in the country." There is definitely something of an adventure in this one when Jenny runs away from school. But it also contains a lesson on friendship and adapting to new situations.
I enjoyed this one. I look forward to reading others in the series.
Jenny's Moonlight Adventure. Esther Averill. 1949/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
Jenny's Moonlight Adventure was originally published in 1949. It is part of a larger series of books starring Jenny and her friends. I did not like this book as well as The School for Cats. It is a Halloween adventure. Jenny must prove how brave she is both for herself and for her friends. She reluctantly accepts a job that only she can do. She is to carry a nose flute to a sick friend (another cat, of course). The job is "dangerous" because it requires her to be brave and clever enough to get past several unfriendly neighborhood dogs.
For readers who celebrate Halloween, this one might prove charming.
Jenny Goes to Sea. Esther Averill. 1957/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 140 pages. [Source: Library]
Of the Jenny Linsky books I've read so far, Jenny Goes to Sea is probably my favorite. In this chapter book originally published in 1957, Jenny Linsky and her two brothers, Edward and Checkers, travel the world with their owner, Captain Tinker. These three cats become very good friends with Jack Tar, the ship's cat. These three leave the ship in company with Jack Tar at many of the ports including Capetown, Zanzibar, Singapore, and Bangkok. Adventures come oh-so-naturally.
I definitely recommend this series to cat lovers of all ages.
Jenny and the Cat Club: A Collection of Favorite Stories About Jenny Linsky. Esther Averill. 1973/2003. New York Review Children's Collection. 176 pages. [Source: Library]
Jenny and the Cat Club features five stories by Esther Averill. These were originally published in 1944, 1948, 1951, 1952, and 1953. The stories are: "The Cat Club," "Jenny's First Party," "When Jenny Lost Her Scarf," "Jenny's Adopted Brothers," and "How the Brothers Joined the Cat Club."
The Cat Club introduces readers to Jenny Linsky, a "shy little black cat" from New York City. Readers meet Jenny and her owner Captain Tinker. In this adventure, Jenny receives her signature red scarf, a present from her owner who happens to knit. This red scarf helps Jenny gain enough confidence to talk to other cats in the neighborhood. In this one, readers learn about the neighborhood cat club, they are briefly introduced to the other cats, and they learn that members of the cat club must be special.
Jenny's First Party is a story focusing on Jenny and her friend Pickles (the fire cat) teaming up and strolling the neighborhood. Both are looking for fun, fun, fun. But neither have money. (What cat has money?!) They stumble upon a groovy party and a great time is had by all. Readers learn that Jenny can dance a happy little sailor's hornpipe dance.
"When Jenny Loses Her Scarf" is about when Jenny's beloved red scarf was stolen by a dog. The dog, Rob the Robber, refuses to give it back. Jenny seeks help from Pickles the fire cat. Pickles is just the one to help her, it turns out, for justice is dealt out after all. The dog's hangout catches on fire! Pickles retrieves the scarf as he's putting out the fire.
"Jenny's Adopted Brothers" is about when Jenny meets two stray cats: Checkers and Edward. Checkers, readers learn, retrieves things. Edward, we learn, is a poet. Jenny meets these two, feels sorry for them, and introduces them to Captain Tinker. When these two are adopted by the Captain, Jenny feels very jealous! Will having two other cats in the house prove too much?!
"How The Brothers Joined the Cat Club" is obviously about when Edward and Checkers join the club. Jenny is hesitant to include her two new brothers at first. After all, she likes the idea that the club could remain her own little secret and her way to get away from them. But. Being the good little cat that she is, Jenny soon realizes that she could never really keep her brothers from missing out on the awesomeness of the cat club. She helps them discover their talents and introduces them to all her friends.
I liked this one. I did. I like meeting Jenny and the other cats.
The Hotel Cat. Esther Averill. 1969/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 180 pages. [Source: Library]
The Hotel Cat is an enjoyable children's novel by Esther Averill. It was originally published in 1969.
The Hotel Cat stars a cat named Tom. He lives at the Royal Hotel, an eight-story building in New York. It is on the older side. And the hotel isn't doing the best business. But all that happens to change during the novel. Tom who is used to having the place to himself, for the most part, at least in terms of CATS ON THE PLACE discovers that there are cats there with their owners. The first few cats he meets he is rude, very rude. But after Tom's owner, Mrs. Wilkins, talks to him, he decides to be more gracious and welcoming. It isn't long before he meets three cats: Jenny, Edward, and Checkers. And those aren't the only cats from the cat club he happens to meet. A difficult winter has resulted in a lot of broken boilers and frustrated cat-owning homeowners are staying at the Royal Hotel. How convenient!
Tom learns a lot about making and keeping friends in The Hotel Cat.
I liked this one.
Captains of the City Streets. Esther Averill. 1972/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 164 pages. [Source: Library]
Captains of the City Streets is a children's novel by Esther Averill originally published in 1972. Two cats star in Captains of the City Street. In this one, the author provides the back story for two cats who have been a part of essentially the whole series. Sinbad and The Duke. These two stray cats are best buddies. They haven't been "owned" by a human in what seems like a very long time by cat reckoning. They are street cats, traveling cats, going from city to city to city, seeing all there is to see, always seeking handouts, but never becoming dependent on any one human. The two travel to "old New York." They are looking for a place of their own, a safe place to stay. They find it. They also find one old man who dependably gives them food day after day on their own terms. He comes and goes leaving the food, never trying to approach the cats, never pushing a relationship. The two cats slowly but surely decide that maybe just maybe humans aren't all that bad. That is when they stumble upon the Cat Club. They learn that the kind human is Captain Tinker. The first cat they befriend is Macaroni. The two are invited to join the Cat Club, but, are hesitant. Do they want to stick around that long? Do they want the responsibility?
I liked meeting Sinbad and Duke. The stories that focus on Jenny certainly mention these two quite a bit, but, this is the first time that readers really learn about these two in detail. It is a fun book.
Jenny's Birthday Book. Esther Averill. 1954/2005. New York Review Children's Collection. 44 pages. [Source: Library]
Jenny's Birthday Book by Esther Averill was originally published in 1954. In this cat club book, Jenny Linsky, our star cat, our shy little black cat with the red scarf, has a special birthday with all of her friends whom we've met through the series. Pickles. Sinbad and The Duke. Florio. To name just a few. It is a lovely birthday. The book itself is sweet, simple, and charming. Especially if you like cats and vintage picture books. I think my favorite illustration is of all the cats dancing the Sailor's Hornpipe in the park.
The Fire Cat. Esther Averill. 1960/1983. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Own]
I enjoyed revisiting The Fire Cat by Esther Averill. I read this one many times as a child. But I had no idea it was part of a larger series of books, the Cat Club series by Esther Averill. The Fire Cat does not star Jenny Linsky. It stars Pickles. Pickles has been a delightful character in almost all of the other books in the series. He is probably one of Jenny's best best friends. In the Fire Cat, readers learn more about Pickles. Was he always a fire cat? Of course not! There was a time he was a hopeless cat that was a little bit bad and a little bit good. One of the firemen takes an interest in him and takes him to the fire station. He is hoping that the chief will allow Pickles to stay. Pickles most definitely wants to stay. He wants to prove himself worthy, so he decides to learn by example. He learns to slide down the pole, for example, he learns how to work a hose. The fire chief is definitely charmed, I imagine cat-loving readers are just as charmed. I certainly was! The Fire Cat is a feel-good read. Readers see Pickles transform from a slightly-naughty homeless cat to a brave and dutiful fire cat. He learns responsibility and compassion. Overall, it's just a good story.
It's been incredibly busy around here lately - getting ready for some huge personal changes, and enjoying the company of visiting family and friends - so busy in fact that I missed posting something here on Saturday. ooops. Have barely had time to breathe never mind draw, so I dug around for something I did a couple of months back, just for fun.
Here is my proliferation of peculiarly painted pets. Not sure whether to continue with these and turn them into a pattern or not ... what do you think?
Have a pleasant day packed with potty peculiarities! Cheers.
Its all done! Phew. I thought I'd never finish. Being sick is a drag (some kind of 'bug', requiring lots of naps and 'lie downs'). But I managed to pick at this in bits of being up and around and finally gone it done.
The paper is 11 x 17. I used Polychromos, Pablos, and Prismacolor colored pencils, on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper.
Not too much else to share. Its so #&* hot here, 100 or over for I've lost count how many days now. The cats have gone wild, insisting I keep the cat door open so they can roam around at night when it cools off. Charlie brought me a mouse, on the bed, at 3:00 am one night, which I did not appreciate.
Sigh. Cats. Summer. Maybe I should eat this tart - its still in the fridge.
Written by Gregory E. Bray
Illustrated by Holly J. Bray-Cook
Published by Gregory E. Bray 6/01/2013
Age 4 to 8 32 pages x x
“Harvey is always playing with his pets, but his pets don’t like the way he plays with them. When the tables have turned, will he enjoy the way he’s played with?”
“Harvey was an energetic boy. He loved playing sports.”
Harvey is a typical five-year-old. He is rambunctious, energetic, imaginative, and self-centered. Harvey loves playing with his pets: a dog and a cat (names not given). Being a young boy, he does not think of either pet’s feelings or consider how they might like to play. The pets are like large dolls that breathe. Harvey puts clothes on them, uses the cat as a basketball, and dresses both up in military garb when he wants to play army—sending the cat up into the air so it may return in a parachute. To say Harvey plays rough with his companions is a mild way of describing his actions. Harvey plays like a little boy plays, with energy and enthusiasm.
The poor dog and cat are not happy and try to avoid Harvey at all costs. His parents cannot figure out why the pets react so adversely to their son, until the day mom catches Harvey ready to catch his parachuting kitty.
“She sent him to his room after dinner and he was only allowed to come out for school and meals.”
Harvey’s response to his punishment further shows he has no idea what he did to get into so much trouble.
“Stupid pets!” [Harvey said, while lying in bed.]
I really like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Subconsciously, Harvey understood what he did was wrong. In his dream, he is the “pet” and the pets “own” him. The pets play with Harvey exactly as he played with them—thrown up in the air, dressed up, and abruptly awakened. Harvey hates this “playing.” The army games the pets play with Harvey terrify him enough to jolt him awake. Mom tells him it is only a dream, but Harvey has other thoughts on his mind,
“I’m sorry guys. I didn’t know how bad I treated you. I promise to play nice with you for now on!”
I like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey because animal abuse starts with that first inappropriate action. While most kids do not continue on abusing animals—and later extend the abuse to humans—the sooner they learn to respect their pets, the faster they will learn to respect other people and themselves. Harvey’s self-centeredness, typical for his age, opened up a notch with his revelation. I love that Harvey came to this realization mainly by himself, though he would have gotten there much slower had mom not punished him. This is a perfect example of how kids learn. The author’s inspiration for the book came in part from his son Liam and their cat Harvey. The author got it right.
Now, what I do not like about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. I am not a fan of the 8 x 8 format mainly because little hands need the stronger pages of a traditional picture book format. A couple of pages came loose from the binding in my copy. The main problem with the story is the lack of action. The narrator tells us 90 percent or more of what is happening instead of letting the characters do this. The story would be more engaging had this happened. The reader would also be able to add to the story by adopting character voices and further charm their child. Please remember the key maxim: Show not Tell.
The illustrations are good, not traditional looking picture book illustrations, but nicely done. The pets are great at showing their dislike through facial expressions, though my cat would have simply hissed or bit, then run away. When the pets do run away, their fast retreat is nicely illustrated. The illustrator made sure we understood Harvey’s point of view drastically changes when he becomes the pet. The dog and cat (wish they had names) are adorable. Nice job with the little details I love so much.
I think kids will like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Young kids will appreciate the story and laugh at Harvey’s predicament. Those with pets will quickly learn from Harvey and that is a great thing to happen. Classrooms with a pet would do well to read this story, as would any child soon to get their first pet. The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey is the author’s, and the illustrator’s, first children’s book. They both did a nice job bringing the story of Harvey (the cat or the boy, I am no longer sure which) to life.
“Gregory E Bray (1967-present) was born and raised in Sacramento, CA where he still resides He was a film major in college who now works in the IT industry. He has written scripts for corporate videos and shorts and uses humor in everything he writes. He uses his humor in this, his first children’s book, to help get the books message out to children. His inspiration for writing this children’s book comes from his wife Lita, their son Liam and their cat Harvey.”
The final, quiet days of summer before the turning of the season and the chill of back-to-work autumn are a perfect time to slow down, turn off the electronics, and refresh the soul by reading poetry. On the other hand, what could be more fun than an internet quiz about cats?
We sat down with Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, and fired up the search, looking for cats stalking the pages of literature. We found some lovely stuff, and something more – a literary reflection of the cat’s unstoppable gambol up the social ladder: a mouser and rat-catcher in the seventeenth century, he springs up the stairs in the eighteenth century to become the plaything of smart young ladies and companion of literary lions such as Cowper, Dr Johnson, and Horace Walpole.