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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Cat's Very Good Day

 The cover of "Cat's Very Good Day"
G.P. Putnam's Sons
Kristen Tracy
The cover of "Cat's Very Good Day"

If you’re a cat owner, you’ll recognize the striped, orange cat gracing the pages of Cat’s Very Good Day (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2023). It is a children’s book written by Kristen Tracy and illustrated by David Small. With more than a dozen children’s books under her belt, Tracy is a well-known and much-loved author of books for kids, many of which showcase animals. She says her latest book is based on Bunny, the cat she rescued while she was a graduate student at Western Michigan University.

A conversation with Kristen Tracy

“When I was a graduate student studying English and poetry at Western, there was a Fosse scholar who adopted Bunny from the shelter, but then quickly decided to travel to Japan and needed someone to take care of Bunny,” Tracy says. “I stepped up to take care of Bunny and really thought it would be temporary, but I ended up having Bunny for 15 years. He lived to be 18 years old. And Bunny was a very, very good boy.”

In writing Cat’s Very Good Day, Tracy brought Bunny back to life. She writes about a good day in his life with poetic phrases. And when it came to illustrating the book, Tracy knew just who to ask.

 Kristen Tracy speaking at an event sponsored by The Poetry Foundation
Genevieve Lee
The Poetry Foundation
Kristen Tracy speaking at an event sponsored by The Poetry Foundation

Tracy recalls how her relationship with David Small began: “When I was in graduate school, I studied with Stuart Dybek, and Stu used to be neighbors with David. Once Stu understood that I liked children’s books—I was interested in writing them even in graduate school—he’s like, ‘You should really meet David Small.’”

A meeting was arranged—lunch over sushi—but Small missed the date on his calendar and didn’t show up.

“He felt so bad that he invited me to his studio, to come and tour it and meet his wife, who is also a writer,” Tracy says. “It was an amazing thing.”

Years later, once this new book manuscript was ready, Tracy let her publisher know that Small was the perfect person to illustrate it.

“It’s a picture book meant for young readers, but it’s also meant for any cat lover, because David’s art is such an elevated thing to see,” Tracy says. “It’s told in rhyming couplets.”

Kristin Tracy and David Small have two events upcoming in Kalamazoo: at the Zhang Legacy Collections Center at Western Michigan University, at 6:30 p.m. on April 3, and at Bookbug/this is a bookstore, at 6:30 p.m. on April 4. Both events are free, but registration is required.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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