HELENCOOPER
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Artwork © Helen Cooper
...not his carpet.

HE WILL SCRATCH IT!

Tom-Cat's box is opened.

He s t r e t c h e s...

he sniffs...

This is not his house,

...not his room...

In my very first picture book Kit and the Magic Kite I wrote a story about our family Cat. OK, so Tigger wasn't known for his Kite balancing expertise. But apart from that I painted him exactly as he was in real life, right down to the smudge on the side of his nose. (Kit and the Magic Kite is long out of print but you may be able to find it at your library.)

Tigger died of old age in 1992 and it seemed time to do another Cat book. In this book I wanted to celebrate the independence of Cats. I was sharing a flat in London and my landlady's cat was a little like Tom Cat. He too spent a fair bit of time in other flats. Then when he wanted to come home, he stood on his hind legs and knocked on the front door knocker. Cat's are so clever. They can even find their way home when they're moved miles away. How do they do it. Nobody knows, but I wanted it in my book.

My story is set in Tom Cat's House. Granted a couple of families also live there, but it is Tom Cat's House. I wrote the text from a Cat-centered point of view. Simple stompy words and short sentences seemed best, mixed in with lots of mentions of sight, smell and hearing. Probably Tom Cat has other names too, but he thinks of himself as Tom Cat and that's how we see him.

The big face on the cover has the house reflected in the eyes because that's mostly what Tom Cat thinks about. It's a serious face because he's very serious about his house.

I wanted to bring a catty essence to the inside of the house. See how many cat clues can find. There are easy ones like the lion on the hearth, and the cat claws on the big woomfy sofa. (Very comfy for a cat.) But there are also hidden ones such as the paw print wall paper and the chairs and stained glass with cat faces. This is the right house for Tom Cat.

And of course the new house is not. Tom Cat knows it as soon as he spots the statues on the gate. The 'dog house ' theme continues inside even though the house is empty. Look at the mantelpiece.

The map is my favourite part of the book. How would Tom Cat know the way home? I painted a map that Tom Cat might have in his head. An old fashioned map with cat suns , moons and winds. And the things that Tom Cat had seen through the hole in the box are there with a cat cast.

Finally I must mention the Spode-Fawcetts who have a pet to match the carpet (Mr. and Mrs. Barrister in the USA edition). The drawings were influenced by the fabulous comic strips of Will Eisner. But also I wanted revenge on the tall snooty couple who once pushed in front of me and almost knocked me over (I am short). Remember, artists (and cats) can always have the last word.