Full disclosure, not only is author Kathi Appelt an awesome teacher and an amazing writer, she is a good friend of mine. She helped me start the Austin chapter of SCBWI way back when, and she’s been in my life ever since. She taught me at VCFA and writers workshops, and she’s written alongside me at writers retreats. One of the things I love about Kathi is that she’s always learning.
But even if I didn’t know her, even if I’d never crowned her queen for the day with a paper crown and a toilet plunger scepter, this would still be one of my favorite books. I remember the first time I read it. My three kids were younger and one of them was pestering me just as I was getting to the last few chapters, so I hid. I squeezed between the couch and the wall and I finished the book, teary-eyed, and then I hugged it to my chest.
It has this great, gut-wrenching, heart-clenching first line: “There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road. A small calico cat.” Okay, so that’s two sentences, but there is something so specific and tender and perfect about that second line that drew me in the first time and draws me in still. Draws me under the porch with the hound dog, into a setting that is palpable. I wish I could put it in your hands this very second but since I can’t, I may curl up and read it again.