"A Cat Named Clyde" is a locally written and illustrated children's book that does for grieving kids what "Inside Out" did for those with trouble expressing emotions. Honestly, a few pages into it, I got a bit misty myself, as Ellen Shelton's rhyming couplets tell the whole story of Clyde as he decomposes and becomes part of the Earth. Barbara Hudin's gorgeous painted illustrations add a wonderful new layer to the tale. None of it is morbid; it's actually very touching and beautiful. We talked with the author about the background.
The Source Weekly: What inspired you to write the book?
Ellen Shelton: I had written this book years ago. I was inspired by the scientific concept that the Earth was a closed system and that particles of matter, especially when we die, get sprinkled around everywhere for eons. When my daughters were young and we had lots of pets, it occurred to me that the idea that nothing disappears would be comforting to them when their cats croaked [laughs]. So, it's really a book about a dead cat. How often do you hear of a children's book about a dead cat? It's a little niche.
SW: Then you self-published it?
ES: When we moved here, I knew I wanted to do something with it and I had a publisher who's a friend. Then I met Barbara Hudin who is a longtime local here and quite a well-respected artist. She liked the story and thought she would do the illustrations. That's how it all began.
SW: What do you hope children take away from the book?
ES: The death of a pet isn't necessarily final. It's also a children's book for adults. I like adults thinking about how interconnected we are, especially environmentally. It's a way of looking at natural processes. It's kind of fun. I wanted it to be whimsical. It's not a downer. I didn't want it to be lecturing.
I talked to a retired veterinarian who read it and they said if they had it while they had been practicing, they would have sent one home with every bereaved family.
By Ellen Shelton. Illustrated by Barbara Hudin.
Available at Dudley's Bookshop Cafe,
135 NW Minnesota Ave., Bend,
and other retailers.