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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Maria Ginaferrari and Review of Being a Cat + Giveaway

Maria Gianferrari is a picture book reader/writer, tea-drinker, dog-lover, and birdwatcher.

Maria writes books that honor our bonds with creatures both domestic and wild, and that celebrate the wonders of the natural world around us. Curiously, though an unabashed dog lover, this is Maria’s third book featuring cats as main characters, most recently Bobcat Prowling, as well as Officer Katz and Houndini. She lives in Massachusetts with her inquisitive scientist husband. You can learn more about Maria at her website:

Maria’s the author of Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice (2022), Being a Dog (2022), Bobcat Prowling (2022), Be A Tree! (2021), Play Like an Animal! (2020), Whoo-Ku Haiku (2020), Operation Rescue Dog (2018), Hawk Rising (2018), Terrific Tongues! (2018), Hello Goodbye Dog (2017), Officer Katz and Houndini (2016), Coyote Moon (2016), Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars (2016) and Penny & Jelly: The School Show (2015).

Additionally, Maria has four other new titles releasing in 2023: You and the Bowerbird, Thank a Farmer, Fungi Grow, and To Dogs, With Love.

For additional information see our earlier interviews (here) and (here).

Her newest picture book, Being a Cat: A Tail of Curiosity, released on April 4th.

Maria, thank you so much for stopping back by to talk about Being a Cat and your writing.

Thanks for having me here, Maria!

What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written a manuscript?

Not really fun or unusual, but I would have to say the car, though not while driving 😊. When my daughter was younger, I worked in the car while she was at various sporting/after-school activities or appointments, usually while listening to nature sounds. Driving on highways can be kind of meditative when there isn’t a lot of traffic, so lines or phrases or ideas for organizing manuscripts sometimes come to me then, or in the shower. I haven’t written in the shower though I was once gifted an Aqua Notes Notepad.

I'll have to try that in a car sometime. Usually, my long drives tend to be filled with books on tape. What was the inspiration or spark of interest for Being a Cat: A Tail of Curiosity?

When editor Nancy Inteli acquired Being a Dog, I was very fortunate to receive a two-book deal. The only thing I knew at the time was that it would be a companion cat book. During the writing process, I decided on curiosity as a theme, and then things began to flow more easily.

Nice. Since it is based off Being a Dog, was it easier to write Being a Cat? What was the toughest aspect of writing this book?

Definitely not! At the time of the deal, Being a Dog was already written, and didn’t require a lot of editing, just a little bit of shifting and paring of words. Secondly, I am more familiar with dogs, although I do love cats, I hadn’t had a cat companion in quite some time, so I began the process of pre-writing with research. Although I was extremely grateful to get a two book deal, it can feel overwhelming knowing book two is not yet written, plus there’s an extra feeling of pressure to come up with something that gels well with its predecessor, but also can stand on its own. It took a bit of floundering and failing. I first started out with “independence” as a theme, but it felt a bit too stereotypical. Once I came upon curiosity, then things fell into place.

That does sound pretty complicated. Is there something you want your readers to know about Being a Cat?

I think curiosity is equally important for humans—to be explorers, to be curious about the world around us; to be curious about people, instead of rushing to judgement, and to wonder. Those are the ways we can be curious, like cats naturally are. And readers are definitely going to love Pete’s tender and humorous art.

I like the way you extends this to kids (and adults). When you first saw Pete Oswald’s illustrations in Being a Cat, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2023. Image © Pete Oswald, 2023.

Everything surprised and delighted me and made me laugh out loud. His work oozes with joy. There are so many spreads to love, it’s hard to pick just one! This one, with the small cat in the huge dog bed, and the huge dog in the tiny bed cracked me up! That’s cat-itude personified. We had a mean cat that would sit at the top of the stairs so our dog couldn’t come upstairs. He’d bark and bark and she just sat there like a mean queen. The preening cat is quite adorable! I love how random cats can be, preening in the weirdest of places.

This spread is both humorous and adorable at the same time. Are there any interesting facts or information you learned about cats which didn’t make it into the story or the back matter?

Fortunately, I was able to include all I wanted in the extensive back matter. I am a back matter nerd, so it was fun to include stuff about cat senses and communication as well as their extraordinary anatomy.

And it is great back matter! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I’m currently in the beginning stage of another book on trees, and working on re-visiting and re-vising some older animal picture books.

Best of luck with these projects. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing, publishing, or not?

One that can be hard to process—the journey to publication is a marathon, not a sprint, so be patient, and don’t give up. Work on projects that you’re truly passionate about—that will help you endure rejections along the way, and tell them in your own unique way. Surround yourself with trusted critique partners to cheer you when you’re up, and support you when you’re feeling down.

Excellent advice! Thank you, Maria for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.

Many thanks for letting me chat about cats, Maria.

To find out more about Maria Gianferrari, or contact her:

Penny & Jelly Website:

Review of Being A Cat: A Tail of Curiosity

A wonderful companion to this dynamic duo's picture book, Being a Dog: A Tail of Mindfulness, this is a fantastic book for cat lovers and curious people alike. It answers questions about cats and their behavior, while encouraging us all to make time to "watch, wonder, and wander."

Being A Cat: A Tail of Curiosity

Author: Maria Gianferrari

Illustrator: Pete Oswald

Publisher: Harper Collins

Ages: 4-8

Informational Fiction


Cats, curiosity, behavior, and humor.


Be as curious as a cat with this irresistible companion to Being a Dog by beloved author Maria Gianferrari and #1 New York Times bestselling artist Pete Oswald.

Join a child and their cat as they embrace their curiosity: wandering, exploring, and discovering all day long. This sweet and fun story is sure to spark wonder in readers everywhere.

Engaging backmatter includes fascinating facts about cat behavior that will feed readers’ curiosity.

Opening Lines:

Can you be like a cat?

Being a cat

is seeking -






around you.

What I LOVED about this book:

In addition to creating a fun premise - learning to be like a cat, Maria Gianferrari uses wonderfully playful language to invite a child to think and act like a cat. Pete Oswald's softly toned, cut paper and watercolor illustrations delightfully enhance the feeling of playfulness. I adore the "surveying" pirate cat and its captain.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2023. Image © Pete Oswald, 2023.

Concise single words or short phrases answer a number of cat related questions ("Are you happy?/Trilllllll. "Can you notice like a cat?"/Observe - angle and dangle" and "Are you mad?/Hisssssss"). And scattered throughout is the fun refrain, "Preen in between." - with the cat demonstrating all manner of fun feline bathing poses. While the illustrations, focus primarily on the active and adorable orange tabby cat and its adventures (watch out fish, toilet paper roll, and clean clothes basket), key moments feature the cat's sidekick - an equally active, inventive and creative young girl.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2023. Image © Pete Oswald, 2023.


and smell the flowers -




(Preen in between)

Put to the test

a box is simply the best.

Keep an eye out for the cameo appearance of Being a Dog ! I love the quintessential "cat-itude" (coined by Maria above) beautifully captured in Pete Oswald's illustrations of the kitty's naughtiness, choice of napping locations (a keyboard), and affection. As well as the final tender scenes between the cat and it's girl. Detailed back matter includes information on cat tongues, noses, whiskers, claws, tasting, as well as their use of their tails to express emotions. It also had an activity on leaping like a cat and some "cool cat" facts. This is a delightful book for cat lovers of all ages and a fantastic book for encouraging everyone to curiously explore the world.


- make a cat bookmark or some of these other cat crafts.

- what are things you're curious about? Have you sat in a sunbeam and watched dust sparkle? Watched birds outside a window? Or figured out which things rolled farthest?

- create an obstacle course using pillows, boxes, tunnel tubes, tables, etc. Now go through the course on your hands and knees - trying to move like a cat.

Being A Cat: A Tail of Curiosity Giveaway

Awesome news! Maria is offering one lucky reader a copy of Being A Cat: A Tail of Curiosity.

- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing on May 4th.

- Be sure to say where (if) you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- *Sorry US Residents only.*


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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