News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters author tells tale of ‘No Ordinary Cat’

“Your destiny is part of you... your spirit, your dreams, your very breath and blood. But destiny is shaped by the roads you choose to follow. In life, choices are everything.”

With these words, Rufus’s mother unknowingly entices her young red-haired kitten to set out on an adventure for which he is totally unprepared. Luckily, Rufus is “No Ordinary Cat” — and this is no ordinary book.

Writing in the refreshing style of Farley Mowat’s classic dog story, “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be,” local author Vicki Spandel has created an engaging tale for any one of the 95 million Americans who live with and love cats, effectively capturing their loving, intelligent and adventurist nature. “No Ordinary Cat” is an unforgettable story for animal enthusiasts of all ages.

Spandel has published over 40 books on writing and the teaching of writing, including “The 9 Rights of Every Writer.” No Ordinary Cat is her first work of fiction and beautifully reflects her wealth of writing knowledge. This extraordinary hardcover edition is visually compelling, with full color illustrations by artist Jeni Kelleher.

Spandel became inspired to write her book about three years ago, when a feral cat showed up in her yard, which borders national forest land.

“He was curious, though wary,” Spandel said. “With intelligent eyes and a raw fear of humans. I couldn’t help wondering where he’d come from. Before I knew it, I was writing the story of a cat who impulsively leaves home one day, not knowing where fate will take him.”

The setting for No Ordinary Cat is essentially the local Sisters wilderness. Magnificent, irresistibly alluring — and sometimes dangerous. Asha, a feral cat in the story, navigates this wilderness with ease. But Rufus, the main character, is more of a homebody — and for him, the threat of death lurks everywhere.

No Ordinary Cat is definitely, as the author says, a book for our time.

“Loneliness is something we’re all dealing with right now,” she said.

Mr. Peabody the poet and Mrs. Lin the gardener, the two humans in the book, each live alone, and through a series of adventures and misadventures, Rufus becomes part of both their lives.

“He not only fills an emptiness, but also awakens a creativity that had been lying dormant within each of them. It’s stunning what animal friends can do for the soul.”

When Spandel first sat down to write the story, she had in mind to write a children’s book. But the story took some unexpected turns, becoming more than a little cat’s adventure. It became a story about the healing power of friendship — one that would appeal to adults of all ages who have or love animal friends. The main character, Rufus, has an uncanny ability to sense human need. So, while No Ordinary Cat is an adventure story that young people will enjoy, it pulls deep sensitive strings for anyone who knows how animals can touch our hearts.

Spandel was also influenced by authors she’s admired, notably William Steig (“Shrek!,” “Amos and Boris,” “Sylvester” and “The Magic Pebble”). Steig, she points out, never writes down to children. His vocabulary is rich and sophisticated.

“That’s the kind of language I wanted in my own book,” Spandel said. “I wanted to tell this story in words I’d use with anyone of any age.”

Younger readers may not know all the words at first, she admits.

“But as a parent and teacher, I’ve learned how easy it is to underestimate what children understand. They’ll get the gist of the story. And their vocabularies will improve as they hear it more than once.”

The best children’s books, Spandel suggests, speak to both young readers and adults.

“Often adults are reading the books aloud,” she said, “and I definitely meant this book to be read aloud.” As she was writing, Spandel imagined a parent or grandparent sharing this book with a child and wanted those older readers to feel she was writing to them, too.

Local author Jean Nave said, “Vicki’s book is amazing. This book is so well written and the color illustrations are so beautiful that it has to become a classic. It’s a heartwarming story with wonderful characters that everyone will fall in love with. Once you read it, you will think of numerous friends you’d love to give it to.”

No Ordinary Cat is available at Paulina Springs Books or through


Reader Comments(0)