Q: You've said that James' Reading Rescue was inspired by a true story. What intrigued you about the story, and how did you decide to write the book?
A: JRR was indeed inspired by a true story. One day, several years ago now, I read on the internet about a cat rescue in Berks County, Pennsylvania, that had a reading program for cats.
The really special part of the story was that the son of one of the volunteers struggled with reading and was getting very discouraged, so his mom suggested that he come and read to the cats. It was a safe, non-judgmental environment for him to practice and had the added value of helping to socialize the cats for adoption - it was a win-win!!
It just reached out, grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. Reading challenges are always timely and my own son struggled with reading when he was young. Also, having raised my children with nine rescue cats and working as a fundraiser for cat rescue, I knew this was a story I just had to write!
Although I had never written a picture book, I felt an overwhelming conviction that no matter how long it took, this was a story that would one day be shared with the world.
Q: What do you think Sara Casilda's illustrations add to the story?
A: Her work brings James and Ghost’s story to life. It was wonderful working with her. And I’m so happy that she introduced her own beautiful (white) cat Luna into the story!
It's really something special to see your story reflected through the eyes of an illustrator. They often picture things differently than you imagine in your own mind, and this often leads to wonderful surprises. She was the gift that brought JRR to life.
Q: What are some of the best things about reading to a cat?
A: Cats and books just seem to go together. It's like a cosmic rule that if you love one, you naturally love the other!
I think one of the best things is that animals are so accepting - they make no judgments. They love you whether you read like a pro or stumble over words. What really matters is that you are spending quality time together, sharing a moment in time that offers something special to both of you.
And this is a great way to help socialize feral cats who need to adjust to human presence.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a number of stories I'm currently working on. Some are in final revisions and some are floating around in my head, still patiently waiting to be written!
I'm delighted to say that Sara and I have another PB due out with Clavis in the fall of 2022. I have a couple of stories out with publishers, so fingers crossed for those! I don't have an agent, so I do everything myself.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Thanks so much for this opportunity, Deborah! I really appreciate your help in bringing JRR into the public eye.
Of course I love this story, but it has been getting such wonderful acceptance and reviews that I can safely say that it is a story that speaks to everyone. Children, parents, grandparents, teachers and librarians.
Reading is so important and can bring such joy, and the very same can be said for animal rescue. It's a win-win and who doesn't love a happy ending?
--Interview with Deborah Kalb