La Jollan’s first children’s book explores friendship and international adventures through a traveling feline

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Thailand? Egypt? Turkey? Where in the world is a sailor, globetrotting Bengal cat supposed to find lifelong friends?

On a quest to find out, the travels of Amara the cat make up the story in the picture-filled pages of La Jolla resident Suzanne Morreale’s first children’s book, “Amara Sets Sail,” for aged readers. From 4 to 7 years old. The book was released on July 26.

“Amara wants to find friends and family on land after a life at sea, so she travels the world meeting cats from other countries who show her around,” Morreale said. “The goal was to show children a glimpse of the outside world and to get them interested in other cultures and places.”

When it came to creating the central character, Morreale looked to her own home. “Children seem to love animals and I thought I would use my very lively and beautiful Bengal cat Amara as inspiration. I thought she might be the one to show them around.

Morreale took up writing after her recent retirement as a pharmacist. “I wanted to do something more creative,” she said. “As a child, I loved picture books and doing creative things like painting and drawing. After I retired from such a scientific field, I took a writing course at a community college, which happened to be on children’s books. I ended up with Amara’s story through that class and was able to get it published.

La Jolla resident Suzanne Morreale began writing after retiring as a pharmacist.

(Courtesy of Suzanne Morreale)

Now that it’s available for readers, Morreale said she’s “very excited to get it out. I’m happy to have the opportunity to produce a book that incorporates cats and glimpses of the world.

Morreale and her husband are lifelong travelers and have visited over 100 countries in their lifetime. “I think there’s so much to learn outside of the United States,” Morreale said. “There are so many things to discover that children don’t have the chance to see and learn. Children don’t watch the news at this age but can learn from books.

“The goal was to show children a glimpse of the outside world and to get them interested in other cultures and places.”

— Suzanne Morreale

Even the creation of the book was international.

Marižan Ranisavljev, based in Serbia, who goes by the name Maja, is the illustrator. “Maja is very curious about everything and finds inspiration for her illustrations in all corners of the world,” according to a press release. “She enjoys gardening and is an ardent observer of her cats’ secret lives.”

Since the release of “Amara Sets Sail,” Morreale has done a string of book signings and readings, including a recent “Weekends with Locals” appearance at Warwick Bookstore in La Jolla.

“I’m really happy to be able to have the opportunity to share with the children,” Morreale said. “The response has been really positive.”

Whether that means a future in writing remains to be seen.

“I have other stories I’m writing that I’d like to see published, but we’ll see if they get accepted,” Morreale said. “I have a sequel to Amara’s story that I would love to publish.”

“Amara Sets Sail” is available in online bookstores and on suzannemorreale.com. ◆


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