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March 4, 2013

Local author, artist highlight cat tales

By Cheryl Petersen
The Daily Star

---- — Cats can jump five times their height. They are known to sleep two-thirds of the day. And, the technical name for a cat’s hairball is “bezoar.” Needless to say these fanciful creatures provide abundant material for a book. Therefore, cat owners in and around the Delhi community contributed to a newly published book titled, “Cat’s Whiskers,” created by Mary Jane Henderson and Aubrynn Nealis.

“The Shire Pub is thrilled to be hosting the book signing and sale for Cat’s Whiskers (Friday),” said Sally O’Neill, owner of Shire Pub at 123 Main St. in Delhi. “All proceeds will be donated to the Heart of the Catskills Humane Society.” The book sale event is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. The book costs $15.

”Cat’s Whiskers” has 73 pages with an illustration per story. One story is about a cat that plays with bubbles. Another cat befriends a dog. The Reverend Linda Wilson’s cat responded to holy water sprinkled in a room because of a previous tragic.

It all began last winter when local author Mary Jane Henderson and freelance artist Aubrynn Nealis got together for art lessons. Their conversations covered a gamut of topics including that Henderson was Nealis’ first-grade teacher decades ago, and they both love their pets. Henderson then showed Nealis a copy of a book written 75 years ago by a Delaware County woman. Bess Hughes Burns published “Cat Tales” in 1938, an easy-to-read book full of cat stories. Henderson and Nealis looked at one another and decided: “We can do this today. And, let’s donate all the proceeds to Heart of the Catskills.”

The two women went about their days as normal but began inquiring if friends, co-workers, and acquaintances had a cat or kitty story they wanted to share. 

“We asked for happy positive stories,” Nealis said. “People contributed immediately and wholeheartedly not only a story but also pictures.” Then came the work. Henderson and Nealis edited and organized the stories to relay consistency.

Nealis began practicing drawing cats in between her jobs at The Shire Pub and freelance work. 

“I studied cats and watched Mary Jane’s cat, Al,” Nealis said. “Then, I took the pictures we’d been given by the authors and started drawing with pencil before adding watercolor and colored pencil.”

Henderson professes no art skills whatsoever and gives all artistic credit to Nealis. However, the active retiree researched the mechanics of creating “Cat’s Whiskers.”

“Loretta Foster, from the Walton Historical Society helped me understand Bess Hughes Burns better,” Henderson said. “Aubrynn and I wanted to honor her work in this project.”

Henderson and Nealis even included one of her stories in “Cat’s Whiskers.”

Having been able to preview “Cat’s Whiskers,” Deb Crute, director of Heart of the Catskills, said: “What a cool book. We appreciate the generosity of its creators.”

Heart of the Catskills will use the funds to help care for and feed the cats and dogs awaiting adoption. For more information, visit www.heartofthecatskills.org or call 746-3080.

(This story has been updated to include the date of the event.)