Instagram-famous Sir Benedict Cumbercat, also know as Benny The Tuxedo Cat, casts a critical eye over Juliet Sullivan’s new book portraying his musical adventures. (Contributed photo)
Instagram-famous Sir Benedict Cumbercat, also know as Benny The Tuxedo Cat, casts a critical eye over Juliet Sullivan’s new book portraying his musical adventures. Contributed photo

Instagram-famous Sir Benedict Cumbercat, also know as Benny The Tuxedo Cat, casts a critical eye over Juliet Sullivan’s new book portraying his musical adventures. (Contributed photo) Instagram-famous Sir Benedict Cumbercat, also know as Benny The Tuxedo Cat, casts a critical eye over Juliet Sullivan’s new book portraying his musical adventures. Contributed photo

Furry fable from White Rock author features feline family friend

Children’s book, Benny and the Pets, a new venture for Juliet Sullivan

White Rock writer Juliet Sullivan has added a new string to her bow – children’s author.

Her latest book Benny and the Pets: Benny Starts a Band is a fun, uplifting story in rhyme, suitable for children aged three to six and up (not to mention cat lovers of all ages), charmingly illustrated with line-and-wash paintings by artist Sorcha Healey.

The book, available on amazon.ca, also celebrates another White Rock resident – the original Benny, also known as Sir Benedict Cumbercat, or Benny The Tuxedo Cat, Sullivan’s rescue-feline-turned-Instagram-sensation.

Sullivan has also artfully included four of Benny’s real-life Instagram ‘friends’ in the narrative – ‘Kevin The Tail-less Cat’, ‘Bella The British Shorthair’, ‘Aslan The Forest Cat’ and ‘Leo The Maine Coon’.

As adult readers of her earlier books – such as Best of British Cookery and The Gallstone-Friendly Diet – might expect, there are also glimmerings of Sullivan’s dry-yet-whimsical humour in the pop-culture references in Benny and the Pets, although she notes she took great pains to make her book appropriate for a children’s audience.

In the book, the musically-inclined Benny lives a lonely life on the street, dreaming of being in a band – one, perhaps, that might offer some cat competition to the all-dog band One Dalmatian.

His life changes when he is rescued by a kindly family – and starts to meet new friends. Always shy about his musical aspirations, Benny also begins to gain more confidence as a singer and songwriter – so much so that he’s ready to start his own band, Benny and the Pets (no apologies to Elton John).

But what happens when Benny enters the band in a prestigious contest – the grand battle of the bands known as PetFest?

The British-born Sullivan’s wildly varied resume includes being a journalist, a bar owner, a real estate agent, a dog walker and a professional gambler – and her life includes dividing her time between B.C. and managing a family quarried-stone business in the U.K.

But she found time – before departing for her annual Christmas tree business sales campaign in England (once she emerges from her two-week COVID-19 quarantine over there) – to discuss her new book with Peace Arch News.

“I absolutely loved writing this book,” she said. “I’ve always written poetry – I love writing rhymes, even though I find it a challenge.

“It took me a year and a half to write it. It was difficult to write, with the rhyming and wanting to make sure it was politically correct and appropriate for the age group. You have to feel sure of getting the tone right – I feel it’s more of a responsibility, writing a children’s book.

“I wanted it to be entertaining, and to have some sort of message in it, but I didn’t want to make it preachy, which I think some children’s books are.”

For Sullivan that element was met by having Benny have a dream to be a performer– and overcome obstacles to gain the confidence to get out on stage, she said.

The title suggests that this is only the first chapter of Benny’s adventures, and Sullivan readily agrees.

“Oh, yeah,” she said, laughing. “This is book one – I’ve got a whole series planned!”

For all of it she credits the input and inspiration of her family, including her husband Lee and son Liam.

But particular credit, she said, goes to her daughter Kerri, who currently lives in England – and Benny himself.

He’s been with the family for three years, latterly acquiring his own website, and an Instagram following of some 42,000, since social media-savvy Kerri set up his account a year and a half ago.

“When he was adopted (from the Surrey Animal Resource Centre) he was pretty beaten-up,” she said.

“He had a scratch on his nose; he was dirty. He’s grown into this large, handsome cat – that’s what love can do.”

His adoption set in motion a family conference to name him, Sullivan recalled.

“Benedict Cumbercat came up, which became Benny for short – which led to Benny and the Pets.

“My daughter claims that’s when she told me ‘you have to write a book about him’, she said, adding it was also Kerri’s idea to include the other Instagram cats in the project.

Also adding to the sense of family enterprise – albeit long-distance – Sullivan said, are the illustrations by Healey, who is Kerri’s fiance’s sister.

“She’s a graphic designer who also lives in England. I happened to mention the idea of the book a couple of years ago and she got involved – she’s put a lot of work into it.

“I didn’t want something too obvious for the illustrations – I wanted something a little bit original and she came up with just the right approach,” Sullivan added.

“I sent her pictures of Benny and all his Instagram friends – after I approached their owners and said, ‘can we put your cat in our book?’

“She hasn’t drawn them exactly or made them look idealized – but she’s injected a lot of personality into all the illustrations.”

To order Benny and the Pets: Benny Starts a Band visit https://amzn.to/32FxomT

For Benny’s own blog, visit www.tuxedobenny.com



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BooksCats

Just Posted

(Clockwise, from top-left) Brenda DeJong, Carol Jones, Marcia Strang, Cathy Collis and Mark East star in the upcoming Sidekick Players Zoom presentation of the Norm Foster play “Halfway There,” directed by Carroll Lefebvre, on May 22, 2021. (Submitted photos)
Delta’s Sidekick Players continue ‘Foster Zoom Fest’ with ‘Halfway There’

Tsawwassen-based theatre company hosting another online performance on Saturday, May 22

Sergeant Mike Sanchez of the Surrey Gang Enforcement Team speaking with students. (Photo: RCMP).
Surrey RCMP’s anti-gang program goes virtual amid COVID-19 pandemic

Presentations aimed at youth available to be booked

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Discussions about Surrey-owned land in Langley should be behind closed doors, councillors say

That’s what Councillors Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and former Surrey mayor Bob Bose say

Little House Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Society COO Debbi McKenzie stands in front of the society’s namesake facility with Phoenix Drug Alcohol Recovery and Education Society CEO Keir Macdonald. (Submitted photo)
Delta’s Little House Society merging with Surrey-based Phoenix Society

Merger ‘came together in a really organic way’ as societies have been working together for two years

Elsje Hannah stands in the old safe at the Healing Place Counselling Centre in the Dale Building. Hannah converted the old safe into a chapel-area for quiet reflection for clients at her practice, which includes the not-for-profit Soul Matters Counselling. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Not-for-profit counselling service opens in Cloverdale

Soul Matters Counselling is located on 176th in the Dale Building

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

Most Read