Tuesday, September 21, 2010

pets as characters: how Cleopatra got her leopard


with my leopards Poppy & Daisy
The Royal Diaries Cleopatra VII Daughter of the NileKids often write me about their pets, listing their names and mischief, and they ask about mine. I didn't realize how much animals mean to some children until these words from an 11-year-old reader: He described his dog as his "very best friend in the whole world" and how every night they slept in the same bed. At the end of his letter the boy wrote that his mother used to be his best friend, but a few months earlier she had died of cancer.

My heart was wrenched. Ever since, I've made a point of having a dog or two, and often a cat, in my stories. So no matter what might happen to a character, good or bad, a devoted pet will be there to comfort the reader. Unless writing of a historical event, I won't let any animals die. All dogs and kitties live happily ever after, birds too!


When I was researching Cleopatra I thought, hmm, what kid wouldn't love to have a big cuddly purring leopard for a friend. So I gave her one! You can see Arrow with its jeweled collar on the cover [ABOVE left] of The Royal Diaries - Cleopatra VII, Daughter of the Nile, Egypt, 57 B.C. I love how artist Tim O'Brien painted a golden-retriever size cat standing beside the Egyptian princess, both so regal. He nailed it.

My goldies, Poppy and Daisy, are as tall as Arrow when they're dragging me to the park but most of the time they just lie around [PHOTO ABOVE right]. They are our family's loyal and cherished best friends.