Friday, April 30, 2021

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) by Phaea Crede

Jacket Flap Copy from Book  

Jet is not like any other cat. But when a bird, frog and goat try to convince her that she must be some other type of animal, she finds that she doesn’t fit neatly into any of those boxes either. 

This sweet, zany story reminds us to enjoy the ways we’re unique.

The Story Behind JET THE CAT (IS NOT A CAT)

By Phaea Crede

Illustrated by Terry Runyan

Barefoot Books, May 1 2021

Jet and her love of swimming was inspired by my mom’s cat Eddie, who is obsessed with baths. Since loving water usually goes against everything cats stand for, I tried to imagine what other cats might think if they caught Eddie happily splashing around. I figured another cat (named Tom in the story) would look down on Jet, maybe even tell her she wasn’t a real cat if she liked water.

Tom reminded me of the phenomenon of gatekeepers—people who think they get to tell other people what they can or cannot be, and can or cannot like. Like most kids, I’d faced a number of the gatekeeping-type bullies in my day (one girl told me that my name couldn’t really start with a P if it sounded like an F!). Looking back, I suspect they all those would-be gatekeepers had something they were insecure about that they were trying to hide. And (spoiler alert) all Jet’s bullies do too!

Once I started drafting out Jet’s story, I realized the text was also speaking to something I’d buried deep inside myself: my dyslexia. I’d always loved writing stories, but my learning disability made it hard to master spelling and grammar as a child, and eventually I gave up trying to write creatively. I decided at age 8 that real writers didn’t have dyslexia. 31 years later I have officially proven myself wrong! 

As seriously as I wanted to take Jet’s struggles to figure out what she really was, I also knew I wanted to make the story funny. Since Jet spends the book trying out new identities, I latched onto the idea that the story could “restart” every few pages, getting sillier and sillier. Jet is a cat just like any other cat. Jet is a frog just like any other frog. Jet is a goat just like any other goat! The repetition also was meant to underscore how hard Jet was trying to be “normal”, which she totally rejects by the end. 

Fun Fact: In an early draft of Jet, she also becomes a Martian and a cat-faced dragon from Alpine Folklore!

Once I’d revised Jet the Cat (is Not a Cat) a solid 14 times (shout out to my critique group Friends with Words), I decided it was time to take the manuscript on submission. I was not agented at the time, but through the 2018 NESCBWI Agent/Editor day, I had the chance to submit a story to Lisa Rosinsky, senior editor of Barefoot Books. Barefoot Books is known for their beautiful, socially- conscious books and I suspected Lisa might like Jet. I was right! March 2020, Lisa officially became my editor and Jet the Cat stepped into her full glory thanks to the exquisite art of Terry Runyan.

Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) is a story that means more to me than I even realized when I was writing it, and I can’t wait to share this spunky black cat with the world! Jet the Cat (is Not a Cat) will be published May 1 2021.

Author Bio

Phaea Crede loves writing silly picture books for silly kids. Serious kids, too! Her debut picture book Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) will be published May 2021 by Barefoot Books. Phaea lives outside of Boston with her husband, two kiddos, two cats, and a slightly stinky dog named Gus. 

Website Link

Social Media Links 

Twitter: @phaeacrede

Instagram: @phaeacrede

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  1. Love this story behind the story! Can't wait to read Jet the Cat!! Best of luck with it!!

    1. Thanks, Mary! I agree. So happy to see you here at My Word Playground. Best, Lynne Marie