Catsong, a 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award winner, is back with more stories, more poetry, and more – what else? – cats. This charming and delightful collection of stories about special cats and the impact they had on the author’s life celebrates the immense love, joy and comfort they have brought, each in his or her own individual and special way.Continue Reading
Full disclosure: Sketch People is not a cat book. Sketch People is a collection of stories about people – about their work, their passion, and their experiences. But since the stories were compiled by T.J. Banks, author of some of the best cat books I’ve read, including Catsong andHoudini, there are quite a few cats woven into some of the stories. And I’m honored and delighted that one of the stories in the book is about Buckley and me.
“Hooked on a Feline: Ingrid King and Buckley’s Story” was the result of an interview with T.J. Banks.Continue Reading
My original people – I don’t like to talk about them much – dumped me on a farm when they discovered I was pregnant, and I had my kittens in the barn. As soon as I was able to, I went out foraging for food so that I’d have enough milk for them. There was an antiques shop right next to the shop, and they hired me on the spot as their official greeter, paying me in snacks. Still, there was the daycare issue: when my kittens were old enough, I brought them with me. They trotted around after me as I showed the customers around. I think we were very good for business.
I tried very hard to keep my kittens safe, but, one by one, they disappeared – cars, coyotes, distemper. That was a very sad time for me. The women at the shop were kind to me, but it wasn’t as though I belonged to them. Or to anyone.
Then the Older Human stopped by the shop and was very taken with me. (I was, I have to admit, looking very pretty and fluffy that day, even though I had a bad case of worms.) She brought me home with her, and suddenly, I did belong to someone. I was warm, well-fed, worm-less – and spayed. The Older and Younger Humans looked after me. And I had friends. There were cats here, too, same as at the barn; but they were all fixed and didn’t have the gaunt faces or bloated bellies that the barn cats had had.
Circe, the Blue Aby, became my first friend: she was very young and really needed someone to play with. I was only a year older – I’d had my kittens very young – so this suited me perfectly. I felt as though I was getting my kittenhood back. We climbed cat trees together and chased each other around the house. Once, I got so into one of our chases, I actually reared up on my hind legs and walked on them. Just like a human. And, speaking of which, you should’ve seen the Older Human’s face. It was, as they say, enough to make a cat laugh. Well, at least this one.
I settled in pretty quickly. The other cats more or less followed Circe’s suit, and Keisha, the Chief Cat, gave me her seal of approval. I eventually adopted three abandoned kittens — Derv Jr. (Keisha had told me about the first Derv, a fine upstanding cat who had lived to be almost 20-years-old), Cheshire, and Magwitch – and got the chance to really enjoy raising them that I had never really had with my own babies. And – this touched me to the quick – the Younger Human even ran a “Phoebe for President” campaign in 2008, complete with t-shirts. Of course, I didn’t win, but I did receive a lot of the popular vote.
Then Keisha died. It was very unexpected, and she hadn’t had time to groom a successor. I was worried. Strong leadership is, you know, very important in a multi-cat household. Then I thought, wait a sec – I could do it. Not only did I have a certain amount of political know-how (I had, after all, run a very perky campaign), but I also had had a lot of Life Experience that the others hadn’t. So I took up where Keisha had left off – keeping the Siamese in line and monitoring the rivalries between various cats. It hasn’t been easy, but I feel I’m doing a pretty good job on the whole.
And one morning, while I was eating breakfast, Keisha shimmered into the room. Her eyes were free from the pain of her brief illness, and she let me know how pleased she was with the job I’d done. She was only there for a moment…a gentle, fleeting moment…but I know that the Older Human saw her, too.
Phoebe’s human is T. J. Banks, the author of A Time for Shadows, Catsong, Souleiado, and Houdini, a novel for young adults which the late writer and activist Cleveland Amory enthusiastically branded “a winner.” Catsong, a collection of her best cat stories, was the winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award. A Contributing Editor to laJoie, she has received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA), ByLine, and The Writing Self. Her writing has been widely anthologized, and she has worked as a columnist, a stringer for the Associated Press, and an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School. She is currently writing a blog called “Sketch People,” a series of interviews with people who have stories worth telling. You can learn more about T.J. Banks on her blog, and through this interview.
“Basically, the cats have our number. And our address. And a map.”
So begins Derv & Co., a collection of stories and poems about some of the cats who’ve come into the hearts and home of T.J. Banks. We meet Derv (short for Dervish), the orange and white patriarch of the clan, and Star, the Siamese whose introduction into the household is described by Banks as “General Sherman marching through Georgia during the Civil War. ” In addition to many others, we also get introduced to Zorro the Reiki cat, who taught the author about healing and energy, and Phoebe, the office cat, who will guest blog right here on The Conscious Cat next week.
T.J. Banks knows and understands cats, and her appreciation and love for each individual cat shines through in her sensitive and beautiful prose. You may recognize some of your own cats in the stories, and you’ll find yourself nodding your head in recognition of a particular feline trait, or laughing as something in one of the stories will awaken a long-forgotten memory of one of your own long lost cats.
Cat lovers, especially those who live with multiple cats, will probably recognize their own homes in the chapter titled “Feline Chic.” We’ve all made decorating compromises to accommodate our feline family members, from flooring to furniture to wall color choices (Banks suggests butter yellow if you have cats who spray!) Sticky Paws tape may just be a cat lover’s best friend when it comes to home decor.
All the stories touched my heart, but it was the poems that moved me deeply. “Storm’s Passing,” written after her cat Stormy died one June morning when his heart stopped unexpectedly, beautifully captures the grief we all feel after losing a beloved cat. “For Solstice” conveys the experience of a spirit visit by a beloved cat that is so magical and lyrical, it filled my heart with joy. “Dawnstar” is an enchanting ode to a soulmate cat.
This is a jewel of a book. It’s the kind of book you don’t read just once. And it’s the kind of book you’re going to want to give to every cat lover in your life.
Derv & Co. is available directly from the author – if you’d like to purchase, please e-mail T.J. Banks.
T. J. Banks is the author of A Time for Shadows, Catsong, Souleiado, and Houdini, a novel for young adults which the late writer and activist Cleveland Amory enthusiastically branded “a winner.” Catsong, a collection of her best cat stories, was the winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award. A Contributing Editor to laJoie, she has received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA), ByLine, and The Writing Self. Her writing has been widely anthologized, and she has worked as a columnist, a stringer for the Associated Press, and an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School. She is currently writing a blog called “Sketch People,” a series of interviews with people who have stories worth telling. You can learn more about T.J. Banks on her blog, and through this interview.
A Siamese only gives his heart to a human once. For Houdini, an abandoned, down-on-his luck Siamese kitten, that human is Jill Leonard. After smuggling him home on an airplane, Jill gives Houdini a good home with her other cats. It’s not long before Houdini settles into life as a loved pet. Hidden dangers abound when he inadvertently strays from home. Will Houdini ever find his way back home?
This description hardly does the book justice. Houdiniis a wonderful story for adults and children, and is sure to melt the heart of any cat lover. Most of the story is told from Houdini’s perspective, and the author’s deep connection with the feline soul shows in every word. You’ll fall in love with Houdini from the very first chapter. Banks masterfully shares Houdini’s story from a cat’s point of view, from his despair at being abandoned to his joy when he meets his special person. You’ll delight in sharing Houdini’s world. His interaction with other cats, and with the humans in his life, as told from his perspective, are recounted with the sensitivity and grace you’d expect from a feline. You’ll appreciate the special relationship he shares with Jill, his person. You’ll worry for him and with him when he gets lost. You’ll find your heart in your throat as you live through the dangers he encounters as he’s trying to find his way back home.
This is not the kind of book that you’d expect to be unable to put down, but for me, it was exactly that. It’s impossible to not fall in love with this sweet cat, and you’ll find yourself nodding your head in recognition as you compare some of Houdini’s observations and personality traits to those of the felines in your life. The book is a celebration of the unconditional love between cats and their humans, as told by one very special Siamese. Four paws up for Houdini!
Catsong is a charming and delightful collection of stories about special cats and the impact they had on the author’s life. T.J. Banks shares the stories of the cats that have graced her life, and the immense love, joy and comfort they have brought, each in his or her own individual and special way. There is Alexander Czar-Cat, the magical cat of the author’s childhood. There is Jason, a black-and-white stray whose love and affection accompany Banks through her college years and into her marriage. There are Cricket and Tikvah, and Solstice and Kilah, cats that connect with the author on a soul level. T.J. Banks clearly knows and understands cats, and her appreciation of and love for each individual cat shines through in her sensitive and beautiful prose. By sharing her stories about these cats, the author makes us feel that we actually knew them, and she also shows us how truly special all the feline spirits that come and go from our lives are. For those of us willing to listen with our hearts, cats have so much to teach us. They enrich our lives through their simple, loving presence, bring us joy and entertainment with their endless antics, and provide quiet love and support during our dark days. This collection of stories covers all of these aspects, and more.
It’s impossible to pick one story over another – they’re all wonderful and special in their own way. But for me, the title story, Catsong, touched me most deeply. This is the story of Kilah, the seventeen-year-old tortoiseshell cat who helps her human through personal tragedy and countless animal crises – and whose loving spirit continues to bring comfort even after passing into the non-physical dimension.
This book is a treasure for any cat lover and makes a wonderful holiday gift. The author has a limited number of autographed copies available for sale. E-mail T.J. Banks at [email protected] for more information and to order.
T.J. Banks is the author of Souleiado and Houdini, a novel for young adults that Cleveland Amory has enthusiastically branded a “winner.” Her work has appeared in numberous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. She lives with her daughter Marissa and their cats and rabbits in a sometimes peaceable, but always interesting kingdom in Connecticut.