Jennifer Brown’s new book is about a theatre cat
by Peggy Miles
I have an aversion to cats. But one special feline has won me over and her name is Tallulah. She’s a fictitious tabby that serves as the main character in the children’s book by Jennifer Brown entitled Tallulah the Theatre Cat. Well, she’s not exactly a made up kitty and as Brown explains, “you sometimes need to give reality a tweak.”
Tallulah is based on a real life cat named Monica who resided in beautiful Victoria-by-the-Sea and could often be found confidently roaming the interior of the Victoria Playhouse. After seventeen and a half years living the good life in this creative little community, Monica recently passed on to kitty heaven. However, she holds a place in the hearts of the people of Victoria and Brown’s new book (her first children’s publication) serves as a memoire of sorts.
“She spent her whole life at the theatre.” shares Brown. “She’d lie on the picnic table at the Landmark Café and wait for the box office to open.” The curious cat could be found wandering the costume department, in the lighting booth or even on stage during rehearsal. “She was a persistent cat.” smiles Brown.
What is the author’s connection to Victoria and the Playhouse? Brown moved to PEI from Montreal a number of years ago and learned that one of her school chums also lived in the area—that being Pat Smith, General Manager of the Playhouse. The two quickly reconnected and Brown became a regular face in Victoria.
Once familiar with the village mouser, the author thought to herself, “Why hasn’t this been written down? I guess I’ll write it.” She does not shy away from grown up vocabulary (“the puss with éclat”) and the story unfolds through rhyme.
The book bursts with colour, with artwork developed by Brown using coloured tissue paper layered onto rice paper. Tallulah herself is hand sketched using a black and white effect, which makes the tabby’s presence pop from each page. Leafing through, readers will recognize the familiar streetscape of Victoria.
“I always liked the combination of words and images,” says Brown. Early creative influencers include her parents. Her mother taught literature and did watercolours and her father’s UK humour had an ability to make the English language dance. A Fine Arts graduate of Concordia University, Brown taught art in Montreal schools for 30 years.
Exhibited by Tallulah’s adventures throughout the theatre, the story shares all that goes into pulling together a stage production. The tabby’s desire to be a part of the action is rewarded at the conclusion of the book. Brown expresses the message is to “Follow your bliss. That’s important for kids to learn. Persevere and find where you fit in.”
Tallulah the Theatre Cat is available at the Victoria Playhouse and at other shops in the village, at Indigo in Charlottetown, Montreal’s Babar Books and online at Amazon.com.
Jennifer Brown is currently working on two other books for children.