Visiting Brazil, an earthquake hits and separates a family from Purrball, their beloved cat. Purrball's mad dash leaves her lost in a jungle where she becomes fast friends with a very clever sloth named Burrball. The two quick-witted animals embark on a journey to find Darryl, the loving and loyal boy who longs for his adorable missing cat.
This is the magical story of a new children's book, Purrball Meets Burball in Brazil. Witty word rhythms and rich illustrations makes this delightful book an engaging read-aloud story. An alluring tale of friendship, family, ingenuity, and persistence.
I had the opportunity to interview the author and illustrator Anne Zoet, about her new book.
What inspired you to write this book?
The story hit me on a day that I took out for myself away from my high tech work. I was having a massage, which is when I zone-out and don’t think about anything. Oddly, this time, I started creating the Purrball and Burrball storyline the more and more I unwound. I was so relaxed that the whole thing unfolded start to finish
How would you describe the characters of Purrball and Burrball?
Smart, kind, resourceful and they’re team players. Animals are invariably way more clever than we humans give them credit for. I’ve seen my cats use incredible logic to alter a situation they’re in. I once had a cat run away in a place she didn’t know (the worst weeks of my life searching every day) but she found her way back, though completely unfamiliar with the surroundings. I have another cat, my outdoor cat, who you can see trotting alongside opossums and raccoons in evenings. That scared me so much at first, but eventually we’ve come to see that he has a real relationship with them. He’s so smart and the more I see the wildlife interact with him, the more I see them as clever and accepting and even friendly. The Purrball and Burrball characters came to me before I moved to this area and could witness my cat and his outdoor adventures. But this experience really solidified how Purrball and Burrball should be portrayed as a team. I think that my cat’s experiences with wildlife show that animals are capable of very unexpected bonds with one another.
Why did you choose to write about a cat and a sloth?
I’m crazy about both domestic and wild animals and it is a passion that just gets deeper all the time. I’ve done a lot of research on cats (on nutrition and behavior) as well as love to build cat structures and make toys for them. And, I do not know who could look at a sloth and not smile! They have the sweetest faces and they have so much more to them than the “sloth” slowness we think of. They’re rather industrious buggers and have some funny quirks, like the wildlife that grows in their fur. I firmly believe they should never be pets and should be kept wild. While the story is pure fantasy (as are stories where animals communicate with phones!), I really want to keep one a pet and the other wild and be true to my feelings about that and it would be so lovely to pass all that along to children!
Purrball, the cat, is unable to send a critical text message, so she asks Burrball, the sloth, if he could tap with his toes to write it. Maybe that’s my wish: I wish my cats would find a way to text me what they’re thinking, lol.
Why did you decide to set the story in Brazil?
It had to be set in the natural habitat of a sloth. I’ve always wanted to see a Brazilian rainforest, so I just created my own. It is roughly in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil and their plane arrives in Sao Paulo. Earthquakes are incredibly rare in that region, so all the more surprising that one happens when they arrive. After setting my sights on this area, I’ve seen dozens of photos of both Sao Paulo and the Atlantic Forest that make me long to go there! It is on my bucket list.
What does your writing process look like?
It’s very interesting that verse isn’t the first thing that comes out. I think it all through with as much rhyme as possible, but just let the story be written in prose for a few versions until the story gels. I can picture the scenery faster than I can create a rhyme.
What was the most rewarding moment you experienced in writing Purrball Meets Burrball in Brazil?
It was seeing the art that kids created from my coloring pages! I always loved to draw and I didn’t find coloring pages that interesting as a kid. Now that I’ve seen what some kids have come up with (like one used a gold pen to make a gold mobile phone), I think it can be very creative. I look forward to some freehand drawings, if kids post any to my site (and there’s an option for that at purrballandburrball.com).\
What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing this book?
I’ve done a lot of digital art, but all for technology-related purposes, so letting things take shape (and learning from a very good freehand artist) was new, challenging, and not always what I had wished it would be until I found my style.
You also illustrated Purrball Meets Burrball in Brazil. How did illustrating the book compare to writing it?
It was a bit easier, given that I’m familiar with creating digital art for business purposes. To have artistic license was amazing and both writing and illustrating were very creative and fulfilling. In sum, illustrating was easier for me than writing, but both were much lengthier than I had ever imagined. I spent a good six months pulling both together.
Did any of your three cats influence the character of Purrball, either in physical likeness or personality?
All three: one has the coloring of Purrball (I love grey kitties, although I suppose Purrball is a bit blue, really) and she has some cute characteristics—the scene where Purrball is looking up curiously at Burrball is so her! I have another onn who is a squat and roundish cat with intense eyes and sitting frontally she looks like a black and white version of Purrball. And the last cat is the most clever cat you could imagine. I rolled them all into one.
What drew you to writing and illustrating a children’s book?
My niece and nephew were recently of picture book age and I loved reading to them. I fell in love with books that were both beautiful and cleverly written and also reminded me of the years we live with unconstrained imagination. I love that animals are a big part of books for children. I figured I had a lot to say that could help kids fall in love with animals, like I did from a very early age.
What is the key to attracting young readers?
It’s letting yourself be one for a moment—a good picture book can transport you back there.
When did your interest in writing begin? What about your interest in illustration?
Recently, my dad reminded me of the “novel” I wrote and illustrated when I was in fourth grade and a few years ago he found my kindergarten poetry and illustrations. I guess I had it in me a while. He always told me I should write. I didn’t pay much attention to that, but like him, art has been a part of my studies and career and learning to illustrate children’s books is such a logical path in my life.
Want to win your own copy? Enter the GIVEAWAY! (U.S.A. Residents only) Good luck!
Disclosure: As required by the FTC I was given a complimentary copy of the book which I happily have in my Pet Blog Lady library.