One morning in 2014, Catherine Shanks woke up with her cat, Shiloh, snoozing on her head, as usual. The phrase "My Cat Is My Hat and My Sleeping Cap" entered her mind and refused to leave. Then came a rhyme, and another and another. Shanks, a Manitou resident, walked to a nearby café to write.
"It was the craziest thing. One line after the other just kept coming," she says. About 10 minutes later, she had finished a functional draft for a children's book, titled My Cat Is My Hat and My Sleeping Cap. While seeking an illustrator, she was introduced to Denise Duker. A lifelong painter, Duker had recently taken up illustrating, including local author Barbara Ziek's Zadie and Plain Vanilla, the Rainbow Alpaca.
"I had done a couple of book illustrations already, but I really loved her story. I just loved how it read," says Duker. "It's this very soothing, lyrical story."
And it seems that children agree. Shanks and Duker read the story to Scott Elementary students as part of a young authors' book day. Duker says that the book's rhyming writing was a hit with the kids, also noting that the regular structure likely makes it a good choice for teaching early readers how to read.
"I know that [lyrical style] helps a lot when you're learning how to read," she says.
Shiloh recently passed away at the age of 19, having lived an adventurous life, including surviving a mountain lion attack and spending six months in Italy.
"Nineteen years with any pet or any person is a long time," Shanks says. "It's been difficult. [But] I get lines here and there for the second book, [International Kitty of Mystery]."