- Ratha Tep
Interview with Elisha Cooper, BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT
There was a cat who lived alone. Until the day a new cat came . . . And so a story of friendship begins, following the two cats through their days, months, and years until one day, the older cat has to go. And he doesn’t come back.
Pick by Jessixa Bagley, Boats for Papa and The Pumphrey Brothers, The Old Boat:
BIG CAT, LITTLE CAT By Elisha Cooper
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (March 14, 2017) Buy now
Can you tell me how Big Cat, Little Cat came about? Was it strictly inspired by your cats? There was one spread where I couldn't help but think of a long married couple. Was that intentional, or my odd reading of it? EC: "When our daughters were young we got two kittens. Then one of the cats died. My daughters were devastated. I was too, but having grown up on a farm, surrounded by a lot of life and death, I knew things would eventually be okay. We got another cat. I wrote this book with that cycle-of-life mind.
And yes, there’s a certain long-married-coupled-ness when two animals live with each other, though I wouldn’t want to anthropomorphize it too much. Could it be love? Our two boy cats spend their days chasing and biting each other in the head, then curl up in a ball and sleep together. Hmm, am I saying that’s marriage? Maybe."
How are Bear and Mouse doing these days? "Cats being cats, and life being short, the older cat — Bear — died a few years ago and we have a younger cat now. His name is Panda and at the moment he’s sitting at my feet with his chewed rabbit toy, asking me to throw it for him. He thinks he’s a dog."
For those who love Big Cat, Little Cat, can you recommend a few other titles that you think they might also enjoy? Mina by Matthew Forsythe. It just came out, and it’s so good. The pacing, the wordplay, the narrative turns. And there are cats in it! Other recent books that have jumped off the shelf for me: Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz and Sydney Smith (I love what he does with light). Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin, I Am the Subway by Kim Hyo-eun, A House by Kevin Henkes. And I’m looking forward to the next Barbara McClintock!"
Are there other picture books you admire for their exploration of love and loss? "I’m sure there are other wonderful books out there that explore loss. One of the reasons though, that I wrote this book, is that many children’s books seem to shy away from hard subjects like grief. When they do, they’re a little proscriptive. Which says more about adults than it does about children. Children are curious."