Be on the alert for the world’s best cat burglar, Ophelia von Hairball V of Burglaria. She is described as white, furry, and purry, and she is headed to make her entrance into St. Albert along with her fishy friend Oscar Fishgerald Gold, naturally.
There won’t actually be much danger to civil order during their visit but their handlers – author Deanna Kent and illustrator Neil Hooson – will make sure that as much fun as possible will be had, and a few life lessons offered too. The artistic couple, both former creators behind the scenes at the Walt Disney Company, left the House of Mouse after a decade to make their own literary magic. Their first endeavour is a children’s book trilogy called Snazzy Cat Capers, the first volume of which was published last year while part two comes out this September.
Kent, a former St. Albert resident, has always had stories to tell. You could say that the urge to write never rests.
“I just always loved writing. We have four kids between us and a really busy household. It's a little crazy but always at our kitchen table, we're dreaming up these ideas for books and stories and worlds,” she began. “For Snazzy Cat, the idea was actually born probably six years ago. What often happens is I'll wake Neil up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Neil, I have an idea’ and he'll say, ‘Deanna, write it down because I'm sleeping.’”
That idea actually originated with a fish as the protagonist. While that seemed intriguing to the publishers at first, it eventually didn’t. However, the side character of a cat burglar did have some spark for them. Fast forward to now and Ophelia von Hairball V is now the star and the fictional character sounds like she would probably be the first to tell you that.
“I love writing her because she's a big diva. She was just really fun to write and Neil loved also drawing her.”
The snazzy cat works for the Furry Feline Burglary Institute (FFBI) as its number one cat burglar. Success can bring conflict though: she’s in constant competition with her cousin Pierre who wants her glory. They are always up against each other on various missions to steal various fabulous jewels and Pierre always tries to thwart her efforts. Even though she does steal the gems, she always returns them. “She doesn't do it for the stealing, she does it for the art,” Kent said.
To mix things up even further, she has been assigned a sidekick goldfish who is an inventor though she much prefers to work solo.
If you’re wondering where all of the humans are in this world, they’re there but they exist in the background. This story and its sequels focus on this animal society.
“It's all about the animals and this rivalry and these missions that go along around people,” Hooson explained.
The first volume of Ophelia and Oscar’s adventures arrived last fall. The hardcover book is 224 pages – with more than 100 illustrations – in a pseudo-graphic novel format to keep its visual appeal strong for younger readers.
The duo and their cartoony friends will make their appearance at Chapters on Saturday, May 11 from 10:30 to 2:30 p.m. They will sign and sell copies of the book plus they’ll be giving away some ‘snazzy’ swag. Hooson will also be giving away custom Snazzy Cat black ink illustrations for those who pick up their own copies.
They’ll also be stopping by J.J. Nearing to meet with some classes, read from the book, a how-to-draw session, and help design custom robo-pets.
Kent also hopes to impart some of her wisdom about working in a creative industry, referring both to Disney and to her relationship with her artistic partner, Neil.
“We have some cool experiences of the teams we've worked with on how to be collaborative. We want to bring that message to kids to that if you have a dream, follow it, but also really work to try to associate yourself with the best people and the best teams, people who’ll push you to learn more. I think actually, we have some stories to tell all kinds of kids,” she said.