If you think that having 62 gorgeously decorated cat sculptures residing in the streets of your town during the summer was enough cats for a lifetime, you obviously don’t know Catskill, New York. The cat-loving Hudson Valley town decided to adopt one more kitty before closing its second Cat-n-Around Catskill Festival on September 21st. The new resident lives in the pages of a book, and thank goodness for that! Author Mario Picayo has created the equivalent of a cat-owner’s constant headache: a cat, cute as can be, with the same desire to follow rules as your average teenager.
Inspired by a true story, A Very Smart Cat/Una gata muy inteligente is the humorous narrative of an owner’s attempt to get rid of a cat whose playful misbehaviors would drive even the most patient of cat lovers to the edge. Her owner watches helplessly as she makes phone calls, eats from the table, watches television, and even plays the harmonica. The kitty on which the book is based lives on a farm in Athens, New York (four miles north of Catskill), where she does in fact enjoy her share of daily disorder, and although her owners do wish she would leave them in peace sometimes, they are not trying to get rid of her.
Breaking all the rules, the clever feline defies her owner in every way possible. Filled with verbal and visual gags, A Very Smart Cat can be enjoyed by adults as well as children. Yolanda Fundora’s vibrant and hilarious illustrations, along with Picayo’s quirky approach to storytelling, bring an energy to this book that will make you want to read it multiple times. The book’s full title, by the way, is A Very Smart Cat / Una gata muy inteligente. The text is fully bilingual in English and Spanish.
The book was “adopted” by the Hudson Valley business community as well.
New York’s Greene and Ulster counties are featured prominently in the story, as Picayo explains. “There is a point where the owner tries to give the cat away and places an ad in the newspaper. We decided to give the book some local flavor and contacted business from the area to place real ads in the pages of the fake newspaper. The response was enormous and we filled the spaces in four days and sadly, had to turn people down. We charged a fee per ad, but gave the merchants the equivalent to what they paid, in books. They got the benefit of having their ads in the book (which hopefully will be around for years to come) and got their money back in a product that they can sell. It was a great way to get the region involved and excited about A Very Smart Cat, and at the same time we made what constituted to pre-release sales of hundreds of books. We wanted the ad pages to look great, but they also needed to relate to the story. We were very careful about who we featured, and Yolanda [Fundora, the illustrator], spent a great deal of time working on the concept of the newspaper pages. So obviously all the ads are real. Even the phone number in the ad where the owner tries to give the cat away is real (try it, it’s fun). ”
Linda Overbaugh, executive director of the Heart of Catskill Association/Catskill Chamber of Commerce is mentioned by Picayo as a person who liked the idea of the ads from the very beginning, and suggested businesses that she thought would like to participate. Among the stores and businesses that you will find in the book are: Hood and Company, Imagine That, and Mahalo in Catskill; Black Horse Farm in Athens; Miss Lucy’s restaurant in Saugerties; Woofstock and Green Heron Farm in Woodstock; and Sawyer Chevrolet, also in Catskill. Larry Siracusano, president of Sawyer Chevrolet, “took the most ads and loved the idea on the spot,” according to Picayo. There are also ads for veterinarians, animal feed stores, and not-for-profit organizations
The author included at the end of the book a page titled “A few final words regarding cats”, that shows his concern for the real thing. “I wanted to address the plight of real cats, and to thank the people and organizations that do so much for so many animals that need help.” Picayo mentioned two local organizations, Animalkind and Catskill Animal Sanctuary, in his thanks. He also included ads for both organizations in the pages of the book, at no charge.
The Cat’s Meow Auction & Gala event will be held at the historic Catskill Point in Catskill, NY, on Sunday, September 21st, 2008 beginning at 1 PM. Author Mario Picayo and illustrator Yolanda Fundora will join the festivities and sign books. The event will include cocktails, food, a live auction of 61 beautiful cat sculptures (the artists will be present), and many other surprises. Proceeds, including those from the purchase of A Very Smart Cat will benefit the Heart of Catskill Association/Catskill Chamber of Commerce, participating artists, and several local non-for-profit organizations including Animalkind, a cat rescue operation in Hudson, NY. There is a $30 ticket price to join the event, but the food and drinks alone make it more than worth it. Tickets are limited and last year the event sold out. For more information visit: http://www.cat-n-around.com/