Children’s book ‘The White House Cat’ explores the life of Willow Biden


Willow Biden, the Biden family cat who joined White House residents earlier this year, is the subject of a new children’s picture book, The white house cat by Cylin Busby, illustrated by Neely Daggett (HarperCollins Children’s Books). The book is aimed at children ages four to eight and carries its feline title through the White House, including the Oval Office and West Wing, offering insight into Willow’s imaginary life.

Busby also the author of a children’s picture book The bookstore cat and The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbsas well as fiction and the true memoir of the crime The year of our disappearanced, written with his father, John Busby. Via email, I asked Busby about the writing process, his interest in cats, and his collaboration with Daggett.

The white house cat is your third book about cats. Why are they such an interesting subject for you? Do you have a cat or cats yourself?

When I was a kid I lived on a farm in Tennessee and barn cats were by far my favorite animals – the way they did their job efficiently (keeping the barn away from mice) but could quickly turn into soft and cuddly pets. them enigmatic. When I was growing up, my family always had one or two cats in residence, mostly Maine Coon cats (which are known to be huge!). Currently, my husband and I are adopting a semi-feral cat named Billie Jean Valentina. She lived on the streets of Los Angeles for months, so she definitely reminds me of a barn cat!

How did the idea for this book come about and why did you want to work on it?

Once I heard that Jill Biden wanted to bring a feline into the White House, I couldn’t help but think of all the interesting rooms and spaces in the People’s House that a cat could fit into. I worked with my editor at HarperCollins, Donna Bray, and my agent, Brenda Bowen, and together we came up with the idea of ​​visiting the White House, from a cat’s perspective.

What types of research have you done? Did you interview anyone from the Biden family or White House staff?

I did a lot of research on the layout of the White House, especially where a cat might like to go (the kitchen, the sunny sunroom). I did not interview any current or former White House residents because I felt President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden had more pressing concerns than what their cat was doing. However, I am happy to talk cats with FLOTUS whenever she wants.

What is the most interesting aspect of the White House cats that you learned while working on the book?

I loved that Socks (the Clintons’ cat) had his own bed in the engine room and how close he was to the chief engineer. It’s so “cat” to me – that Socks decided who his favorite person was, and it wasn’t the president!

How did you work with illustrator Neely Daggett?

Working with Neely was fantastic – she’s so talented and had exactly the right style for this book. In an old building like the White House, there are so many little details that she was able to capture in a fun and engaging way. She also understands cats and was able to portray the many moods of the fictional FCOTUS perfectly.

What do you hope young readers take away from the book?

The rich history of the White House, and the fact that it truly is “our” home – it belongs to the American people. Our fictional First Cat does a lot to prepare the house for VIPs (which stands for Very Important Pupils in our book), so I hope young readers understand their role in electing the leaders of our democratic country, and how the President , The First Lady and even the First Cat work for us.

Have you received any comments from the First Family on the book?

Not yet, but I’m ready for my own tour – and of course I’ll bring Valentina to meet Willow.

Willow’s arrival marks the first time the White House has had a cat since the George W. Bush administration. Why do you think that is? Are dogs easier pets to have in the White House than cats in your opinion?

I must admit that dogs are easier. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and cats, but dogs rarely shred antique furniture with their claws or climb into a historic heating vent to hide for days – cats do! Dogs are man’s best friend and follow commands, but cats are their own boss and they’ll let you know.

Based on your research, how would you say Willow’s life is different and similar to that of an average cat?

The White House is a very large residence and the downstairs rooms receive hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, something your ordinary house cat is not used to. Some cats like lots of attention and others prefer to be left alone, so depending on how Willow feels, she might be having a little too much human time with staff and visitors. Hope she enjoys being the feline queen of the house.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a Hallmark Christmas movie with my writing partner – it’s not about cats, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to fit one or two in!

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