Prudence the rat, who everyone thinks is a mouse, knows a lot! For instance, she knows that the rare, flowering, blue vine, only grows near the lower-case w. Many never can find it because they do not know this fact.
It is NOT the upper-case W. That is another magic flower and another story.
Many of you know that rats are very social, quite kind on occasion, and get around a lot at night! Sometimes, if they are fat they can get stuck in a manhole cover! Good grief! Anyway, you should know that Prudence has a wide circle of friends due to the fact that she IS a rat, although not fat.
And, the other day, she heard that a young boy, one with a lower-case w, a william, was not feeling so well, which of course made her sad. More importantly, she heard that he was CRANKY! She LOVES cranky boys. They always say what they mean. Being a no-nonsense rat herself, Prudence values this character trait considerably.
Here she peeks out to let william know that she is sending along a bit of magic 4 him only. Make a wish and feel better, young william.
This drawing and story are for young william who is brave & strong, and recovering in hospital.
One of the joys of loving to read is that one is assured of birthday gifts in the form of books. The Travelling Cat Chronicles was such a gift this past December. I was told by the gift-giver that it is one to savor for a bedtime activity as I decompress from the day’s errand running, hither and yon.
So, I did.
There is a plethora of online reviews from quite reputable and well-written sources. Thus, I will limit my opinion here to my initial reaction.
This is not a title that I would have chosen for myself; I am not terribly enamored of anthropomorphic stories, except perhaps children’s. This title straddles both adults’ and children’s worlds fortunately, with the winding narrative style. Whether I liked or disliked the story was dependent upon my mood for the reading hour. Beware! I am a fickle and flighty reader.
Yet, here is the beauty of the gift: it is a glimpse into how others see you; your likes, your aura…
My gift-giver was ever-so-close to the mark, and invited me into this “other” space I may have never visited otherwise.
This is a “thank you” to all who gift me with books! You widen my world.
Among other “cat” books given to me throughout the years:
The Priceless Cats and Other Italian Folk Stories by M.A. Jagendorf, illus. by Gioia Fiamenghi (New York: H. Wolff, 1956) from my parents-in-law who supported my Italian education in every way possible!
The King of the Cats and Other Feline Fairy Tales(London: Faber & Faber, 1994) edited by John Richards Stephens, and The Siamese Cat (New York: Brentano’s Inc., 1928) by Leon Underwood, both from a librarian colleague who was downsizing and thoughtfully gave new homes to those books she cherished.
Boris (New York: Harcout Books, 2005) by Cynthia Rylant from a teacher-colleague and friend who knew my heart so well during our years together.
Arikawa, Hiro, and Philip Gabriel, trans. The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Berkeley, 2015. Print.
Several years ago, during Christmas, I opened a small package from Son #2. Inside was a framed, gelatin print.
This very one.
I was astounded.
He had managed to research my hometown, not far from where he was born through happenstance, and found this 1935 Walker Evans‘ image. It is the view from the hill on the South Side where a Roman Catholic cemetery resides. Unknown to Son #2, many of my and his Slovak relatives are buried there.
And, far in the distance across the Lehigh River, lies Moravian College. A world unknown and foreign to these laborers in the steel mills. In 1955 my parents had the gumption to move to the North Side, where my sisters and I would grow-up, leaving the South Side boundaries behind. Yet, it would be here – on the “other side” of their hometown – that their granddaughter would attend that very college, meet her husband and the father of this very son.
What is so striking about this image is that it captures all the central points in the daily lives of the European immigrants, be they Slovak, Italian, Polish, or Hungarian. The Bethlehem Steel, the Church, and the neighborhoods of row homes, loomed large. This was the “poor side” of town.
On a night such as last night many years ago, there was a a silent, steady snow blanketing as far as my eye could see.
It was a view to savor.
I had been working away in my cozy, second floor studio at the back of the house, sitting at an old, yellow-pine drafting table – a gift from my sister. Facing the window, I looked up often while fulfilling a bookbinding commission for a book artist who received part of a 1995 NEA grant awarded to Pyramid Atlantic where I worked for several years.
Cutting and glueing Japanese hinge after Japanese hinge created a rhythm to the falling snow; an inner stillness. This was my Holy Night.
Japanese paper running
through efficient fingers
as scissors clip, and brushes glue.
snowflakes, gentle and soothing
fall purposefully into their beds
on a winter night.
This “table screen” was one of several I created during my decades as an artist. Using bookbinding techniques for hinging, it allowed me to assemble something close to the book format, yet retains the feel of a two-dimensional work of art.
The #9 has come into my life demanding my full attention. So, as in many cases, I have handed it over to Prudence. She is a most congenial rat. Often she is mistaken for a mouse. Make no mistake, my friend, while diminutive in stature, she can be fierce in nature.
Anyway, back to the #9. Prudence has done a fine job of pay homage and placating the conceit of this digit. She has created a space of him, gathered posies as a tribute, and even offered her heart. All this with honesty and shall we say, forbearance. Yet, the cheek of this #9! He is not assuaged
Showing her resolve, tinged with some exasperation, she insists he meet #2.
Is #2 up to the challenge of placating and softening this petulant character?
Prudence has been in my life for decades quietly, behind the scenes. I am grateful to the art of Beatrix Potter for inspiring and mentoring this season’s illustrations of her, when she befuddled me by never sitting still .