We are still celebrating Asian literature in our current theme, From Asia With Love. As I say goodbye to cough and colds (they will not be missed!), I’d like to share with you two picture books that I bought in the Philippines nearly a month ago. Both happen to be about cats. (I have quite a number of friends who love cats so these picture books would be perfect for them.)
Story by: Becky Bravo
Illustrated by: Mark Salvatus
Published by: Adarna House
All book photos were taken by me.
When I was still living in the Philippines, I used to collect local picture books. I remember buying a bunch of Adarna picture books because Iphigene and I had to write a paper for one of our psychology classes. (Was it for content analysis, Iphigene?)
“Quite a very long time ago, when the earth was not so old, animals came in only one color… God entrusted the coloring of animals to a special team of angels whose task it was to paint every animal bound for Earth.”
Becky Bravo’s The Cat Painter offers a fractured albeit delightful twist to the creation story, or how animals came to be. The book features an angel named Miral, whose task it was to color cats. Doesn’t it sound like a fun idea to be given the special task of coloring animals? Because Miral was very diligent with the task at hand, God would send him apprentice angels to learn how to color animals.
“This was how the eager young Rahal, a most unusual angel with a sparkle in his eye and a halo just the slightest bit askew, first came to the workshops of the painters.”
Rahal was indeed an unusual angel because, among Miral’s students, he was the only one who liked to ask questions. And such questions he asked!
“Why are the only colors for cats black, white, and yellow?”
“Why can we only use one color on a cat?”
“Has a cat ever been colored partly black and partly white? Or partly white and partly yellow? In all three colors? In grey? In stripes and patches? In spots?”
One can only imagine what would happen when a curious little kid like Rahal, who asks too many questions, is left in the painting chamber to work completely on his own! You and I know too well that cats do not just come in black, yellow, or white. So if you happen to see a cat with stripes, dots, spots, rainbow colors, and whatnot, remember the little angel with the sparkle in his eye and a halo just the slightest bit askew. *wink*
The Cat Painter bagged First Prize in the short story division of the 2004 Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. The Palanca Awards is the Philippines’ most prestigious and longest-running literary award-giving body. It was described by The Manila Standard as the Pulitzer Prize of the Philippines.
Deserving of the Palanca Award, The Cat Painter fosters creativity, imagination, and out-of-the-box thinking. It helps children explore possibilities and entertain new ideas. The colorful storytelling is complemented by the lovely, vivid illustrations of Mark Salvatus, whose works have been exhibited in different galleries and museums and in the Philippines and overseas.
Written by: Lina Diaz de Rivera
Illustrated by: Frances Alcaraz
Published by: LG&M Corporation
All book photos were taken by me.
The text in the covers of The Cat Painter and The Cardinal and the Cats looked so similar that I thought the books were part of a series! I learned later on that both books were stand-alone. I find it rather funny that, while I’m not a cat lover, I love the covers and layout of both picture books! Fun!
“What greater gift than the love of a cat?”
— Charles Dickens
The story of The Cardinal and the Cats is simple and straightforward. It’s about a Cardinal who has six cats. There were a pair of orange cats, a pair of black cats, and a pair of cats in both colors. The have lovely names. The orange cats were Fraulien and Bavaria. The black cats were Notte and Diorno. The two others were Principesa and Amadeus. All of them were fat.
It chronicles daily activities of the Cardinal and how the cats would follow him wherever he went. From the Cardinal’s early morning walk to the piazza to his playing Mozart on the piano, the Cardinal’s cats are always by his side. Most heartwarming of all, the cats continue to display affection for the Cardinal even after the Cardinal became a Pope!
“The cats were ready to purr against his legs and his black cassock. But –
“This is no longer a black robe trimmed with red. He wore red shoes when he used to wear black ones. And he was all in white! His robes were as white as his hair and his smile! He gathered them in his arms two at a time and kissed them. He had tears in his eyes.”
In the book, the Cardinal was referred to as “German Shepherd.” I tried to search online about a Cardinal labeled “German Shepherd” who owned six cats. Alas, I found none. However, in my readings, I did find out that Pope Benedict XVI owned two cats. I looked at the book again for any references to the Pope, and this is what I found:
To the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, worthy vicar of the Good Shepherd. – LDR
Everything made sense thereafter. The Cardinal was named “German Shepherd” because he came from Germany and, like the canine, he was a very protective leader and guardian of his flock. I’d like to think that this book was a sweet tribute to Pope Benedict XVI. So nice!
I enjoyed both stories so much. I do hope that these books become more accessible to people across the globe!