My favourite childhood memories are all to do with animals. I was nuts about them. My dad was into bird keeping and rescuing – there was often one in a box by the radiator while he nursed it back to life before releasing it back into the wild – and my mum just loved animals in general. That reminds me that we once had a pigeon flying around the lounge! He got well and made a lot of mess! Most of my books star animals, so I guess it’s easy to see where my inspiration came from.
When I was a child I wanted to be able to talk to our pets. This mini zoo of ours was magical to me. One of my best-est buddies at the age of six or seven was our cat Mitzi, who I talked to and was sure she understood. My dad had a big aviary in the garden that was full of budgerigars and quails, and I thought I could communicate with them by winking. I’d go inside, hold out my two little hands full of bird seed, and the budgies would land to feed. They’d also hop on my shoulder to do the winking thing.
I also learned that saying goodbye forever was hard, but part of life. When we moved house when I was 12, we couldn’t take the aviary of birds (the new home owner inherited them), and I remember being inconsolable when the first pet I was responsible for, a fish I’d got from the stream went to the big ocean in the sky. I’d named him Pip, after the canary in Little Women, which was probably not a good sign as he died in the book. To me, all our animals, big or small, were family.
We also had a dog called Glen, who was a border collie. I don’t remember much about him as I was really young, except that he covered me with dirty water whenever he went for a swim when we took him for walks. I imagined he was laughing every time, and that he’d do it on purpose, kind of naughty like.
Over the years our animals included two Boxers, so many cats and kittens that I lost count, two rabbits called Snowy and Harvey, two guinea pigs, numerous gerbils, some hamsters, two red-bellied newts, canaries, budgies, two cockerteels, goldfish, tropical fish, a tortoise called Tonic (it was painted on his shell) who wandered in one day and left weeks after and a white duck that someone asked us to adopt. I also remember a hedgehog hibernating in a box one winter. That’s not forgetting the box of about ten chicks that my brother brought home from school, unannounced, after his teacher asked the class who’d like to take them. Unperturbed, my dad built a chicken run and we had fresh eggs thereon, along with a cock who was an interesting morning alarm and probably rather unpopular with the neighbours.
My favourite TV shows were Top Cat, Scooby-Dooby-Doooo, Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, The Clangers, Mr Benn and The Mr Men. As you can see, animals ruled supreme while Mr Benn was all about journeying by magic to the past and The Clangers were just plain off-the-wall. I even wanted to marry Bugs Bunny if Scooby wasn’t interested, and I didn’t realise that him being an animal and a cartoon would be a problem…
On Fridays at Junior School, we had playtime – every kid’s favourite day. There was a Wendy House and loads of outfits to dress up in, and us kids could bring our games. I would bring Hungry, Hungry Hippo, where you bashed your colourful, plastic hippo up and down to gobble up more marbles than your friends. We loved it. Of all the costumes, I would sprint for the white bunny outfit with big floppy ears. I think my classmates knew I was obsessed with it as they always let me wear it. One day another girl got there first and I sulked all afternoon! She must have felt sorry for me because it never happened again!
Needless to say, I’m still crazy about animals.
Have you ever wished your cat could talk or wondered where he/she goes when you are not around? Kiwi in Cat City is the first book in a series, of which there are six fun adventures so far. They are set in various animal-inhabited worlds, along with the human one, of course.
Kiwi seems like a typical moggie, content to nap in the sun and chase shadows, but she has a secret. She is a magical cat from a place called Cat City. With her two humans, James and Amy, Kiwi finds mysteries and adventures, dealing with catnappings, jewel thieves, giant rats, time travel, haunted houses, Father Christmas, pyramids and more. The fun stories contain positive messages about loyalty, friendship, honesty, bullying and the power of standing together.
Kiwi in Cat City opens on one dark night. Amy cannot sleep and she looks out of the window into the garden to see her cat, Kiwi, transfixed by the moon, which is glowing brightly like a cat’s claw. Waking her brother, James, Amy suggests they follow Kiwi to see where she goes… whether it involves a hunt for mice or something else. Little do they know that with a flick of her tail, Kiwi is going to magically change the children into kittens and lead them on the adventure of their lives to a land they never knew existed in their wildest dreams. In the blue-lit world of Cat City, the budding detectives help Inspector Furrball to investigate the mysterious catnapping of Mr Katz and find out what happened to Madame Purrfect.
The books contain illustrations by the talented Nikki McBroom. Furry fun for ages 9-99.
Vickie Johnstone lives in London, UK, where she works as a freelance layout sub-editor on magazines and as an editor on indie books. She has a thing about fluffy cats and also loves reading, writing, films, the sea, rock music, art, nature, Milky Bar, Baileys and travelling. If sleeping was an Olympic sport, she’d be a contender. Vickie has self-published the following books: Kaleidoscope (poetry); Travelling Light (poetry); Life’s Rhythms (haiku); 3 Heads and a Tail (comedy romance); Kiwi in Cat City (magical cat series for middle grade readers); Kiwi and the Missing Magic; Kiwi and the Living Nightmare; Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle; Kiwi in the Realm of Ra; Kiwi’s Christmas Tail; Day of the Living Pizza (comedy detective series for middle grade readers), and Day of the Pesky Shadow. Vickie is currently working on a fantasy with a female central character called The Sea Inside.
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