Purring Furrily or Burrily?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Anne Zoet to my blog, and to offer my review of her picture picture book, Purrball meets Burrball in Brazil. If the title itself isn't enough to intrigue you, well ... read on and find out more.

Review of Purrball Meets Burrball

When Darryl’s family move to Brazil, it’s obvious that Darryl’s cat, Purrball, will come too, and so will readers, enjoying this book. Wise parents have Mom’s phone and charger on hand for the journey, so Darryl can play games. They provide welcome cat treats to keep Purrball content. But neither Purrball nor Darryl can keep smiling when the world rocks and sways. An earthquake is not what anyone expected, and the startled cat runs away.

Thus begins Anne Zoet’s Purrball Meets Burrball in Brazil. Bright, lively illustrations invite small readers and listeners to guess what happens next because…well, because poor Purrball has Mom’s phone and charger tangled around his leg. Burrball the Sloth (very pleasingly named) offers help. Then both cat and sloth prove wise and resourceful, passing strangers behave with bemused excitement, and the internet, so familiar to young readers, plays its own sweet part in bringing a family back together.

An adult might draw wise lessons from this tale, while child and adult together enjoy a fun story with a happy ending and promise of more, maybe, to come. The rhymes are a little forced at times, and the rhythm a little off, but the concept is intriguingly new and it all works well—the story reads pretty smoothly, and the pictures bring it to life, leaving readers satisfied and eager for more.

Disclosure: A publicist (PR by the Book) gave me a copy and I offer my honest review.

Buy links:

Interview with the author 

1.    What inspired you to write this book? (I always have to ask this!)
The story hit me on a day that I took out for myself away from my high tech work. I was having a massage, which is when I zone-out and don’t think about anything. Oddly, this time, I started creating the Purrball and Burrball storyline the more and more I unwound. I was so relaxed that the whole thing unfolded start to finish.
2.    How fun! No wonder the story seems so relaxed, despite its initially scary storyline. How would you describe the characters of Purrball and Burrball?
Smart, kind, resourceful and they’re team players. Animals are invariably way more clever than we humans give them credit for. I’ve seen my cats use incredible logic to alter a situation they’re in. I once had a cat run away in a place she didn’t know (the worst weeks of my life searching every day) but she found her way back, though completely unfamiliar with the surroundings. I have another cat, my outdoor cat, who you can see trotting alongside opossums and raccoons in evenings. That scared me so much at first, but eventually we’ve come to see that he has a real relationship with them. He’s so smart and the more I see the wildlife interact with him, the more I see them as clever and accepting and even friendly. The Purrball and Burrball characters came to me before I moved to this area and could witness my cat and his outdoor adventures. But this experience really solidified how Purrball and Burrball should be portrayed as a team. I think that my cat’s experiences with wildlife show that animals are capable of very unexpected bonds with one another.
3.    But a cat and a sloth? What made you think of that?
I’m crazy about both domestic and wild animals and it is a passion that just gets deeper all the time. I’ve done a lot of research on cats (on nutrition and behavior) as well as love to build cat structures and make toys for them. And, I do not know who could look at a sloth and not smile! They have the sweetest faces and they have so much more to them than the “sloth” slowness we think of. They’re rather industrious buggers and have some funny quirks, like the wildlife that grows in their fur. I firmly believe they should never be pets and should be kept wild. While the story is pure fantasy (as are stories where animals communicate with phones!), I really want to keep one a pet and the other wild and be true to my feelings about that and it would be so lovely to pass all that along to children!
4.    Meanwhile, of course, the children will play with e-pets on their phones, but real pets are better. How do Purrball and Burrball use technology in the book?
Purrball, the cat, is unable to send a critical text message, so she asks Burrball, the sloth, if he could tap with his toes to write it. Maybe that’s my wish: I wish my cats would find a way to text me what they’re thinking, lol.
5.    Maybe dogs will learn to text too. But why did you decide to set the story in Brazil?
It had to be set in the natural habitat of a sloth. I’ve always wanted to see a Brazilian rainforest, so I just created my own. It is roughly in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil and their plane arrives in Sao Paulo. Earthquakes are incredibly rare in that region, so all the more surprising that one happens when they arrive. After setting my sights on this area, I’ve seen dozens of photos of both Sao Paulo and the Atlantic Forest that make me long to go there! It is on my bucket list.
6.    What does your writing process look like?
It’s very interesting that verse isn’t the first thing that comes out. I think it all through with as much rhyme as possible, but just let the story be written in prose for a few versions until the story gels. I can picture the scenery faster than I can create a rhyme.
7.    Interesting. For me, the rhyme usually comes first when I'm working on a picture book. But then, my art is nowhere near as cool as yours. You had an interesting comment about children's art though didn't you? What was the most rewarding thing about writing this book?
It was seeing the art that kids created from my coloring pages! I always loved to draw and I didn’t find coloring pages that interesting as a kid. Now that I’ve seen what some kids have come up with (like one used a gold pen to make a gold mobile phone), I think it can be very creative. I look forward to some freehand drawings, if kids post any to my site (and there’s an option for that at purrballandburrball.com).
13.  When did your interest in writing begin? And in illustration?
Recently, my dad reminded me of the “novel” I wrote and illustrated when I was in fourth grade and a few years ago he found my kindergarten poetry and illustrations. I guess I had it in me a while. He always told me I should write. I didn’t pay much attention to that, but like him, art has been a part of my studies and career and learning to illustrate children’s books is such a logical path in my life.
14.  Which writers inspired you as a kid? Or today? 
As a kid, I loved any book with intense colors with much to take in visually on every page (like Where the Wild Things Are). I was always moved by art at an early age and even didn’t want to move from picture books to chapter books! As an adult, I am in love with words as much as the art, so
Chris Van Dusen’s “If I built a” series is the type of book that inspires me to develop both. He is a master at both.

15.  Will we see the duo return in a future book?
They have many adventures ahead! If a picture book were not a short thing, I’d probably be just finishing up chapter 18 at this time because I have so many ideas for Purrball and Burrball. But yes, there’s one in the works already as well as a few other animal adventures that are rattling around in my head.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog, Anne, and I hope both Purrball and Burrball find lots of satisfied readers.


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