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Inspired by true events, retired Newfoundland veterinarian's kids book deals with putting down a pet

Retired veterinarian and author Andrew Peacock has veered off in a new direction with his latest book "One Brave Boy and His Cat." ANDREW ROBINSON/THE COMPASS
Retired veterinarian and author Andrew Peacock has veered off in a new direction with his latest book
FRESHWATER, N.L. —

When Andrew Peacock was a practising veterinarian, putting sick and injured animals to sleep was part of his job. When it was a child's pet, the parents were most often the ones who helped that child understand why it was the right thing to do.

One instance in his 28-year professional career that deviates from this narrative inspired the Freshwater, Conception Bay resident's first foray into writing a children's book. "One Brave Boy and His Cat" tells the story of a family facing a tough predicament after a car hits their pet cat, leaving it badly injured. The parents feel the reality of the situation is too much for their seven-year-old son Nic, who ultimately surprises everyone by showing them how brave he is.

"One Brave Boy and His Cat" is published by Pennywell Books, an imprint of Flanker Press.
"One Brave Boy and His Cat" is published by Pennywell Books, an imprint of Flanker Press.

"That really happened," Peacock explained during a recent interview with The Compass. "There was a family that came in that wanted to mislead their young son about what the situation was with the cat, and I think it's very important for us to give credit to children that they understand death, because they can and sometimes they understand it better than the parents do. In the case of this story, what happened was the parents weren't as willing to accept the reality that something final had to be done with the cat as the child was."

The story will be familiar to those who read Peacock's previous book, the short story collection "Creatures of the Rock." Published by Doubleday Canada, the book was long-listed for the 2015 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and won a 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for best non-fiction. "Creatures of the Rock" includes an expanded version of the tale told in Peacock's latest book, published by Flanker Press imprint Pennywell Books.

"It struck me as a very sort of poignant moment," he said. "Usually when I tell stories about my vet work, it's usually the funny ones that I like to tell, and there are all kinds of funny ones."

This story is considerably less funny than others included in "Creatures of the Rock," but Peacock said his own editor thought it was the best one in the book.

"It gets at a truth that a lot of people aren't often willing to deal with," he said.

Ideally, Peacock believes "One Brave Boy and His Cat" is a book parents should read to children.

"In our society, we have a hard time dealing with death, whether it's the death of people or death of animals. Society doesn't seem to want to accept that that is part of the normal process. We're all going to die. It's not a question of whether we're going to die. It's a question of when, and it's the same thing with our pets. I used to tell my clients that part of the deal when you get a dog or a cat is you'll have to deal with the death of this animal ... I like to think the book is a helpful piece in dealing with the reality of pet ownership."

Pictures help tell tale

Carbonear artist Angie Green illustrated "One Brave Boy and His Cat." CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Carbonear artist Angie Green illustrated "One Brave Boy and His Cat." CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For the illustrations, Peacock brought on board Carbonear artist Angie Green. Known for her knack to complete flattering portraits of people, she took on a new challenge with this project, her first attempt at illustrating a children's book.

"I was excited to give something new a try," Green told The Compass.

"I tried to keep in mind we wanted the book to appeal to both parents and kids, and also with the heavy subject matter of the book, I felt the more comic-style characters would give it a little levity."

Peacock was very pleased with Green's work on "One Brave Boy and His Cat."

"It's more in keeping with what would be done for a children's book, but there's depth to the art that's way beyond just telling the story," he said. "The normal way that you would do an illustrated book is the illustrations retell the story. In this one, Angie does retell the story, but parts in there, if you look carefully in those pictures, there's subtext that she gets into that aren't in the story at all."

Green appreciated having free reign to create art for the story.

"Andrew really let me take the reigns there, but we did collaborate. We talked back and forth throughout the whole process just to make sure we were on the same page. As for the style of illustration, he really left that up to me."

For the cover art, Green played with the bravery concept inherent in the story by giving the boy and his cat superhero masks.

"The boy kind of is a little bit of a hero in the story, so I thought it might be fun to portray him and the cat that way on the cover," she said.

A St. John's book launch for "One Brave Boy and His Cat" takes place Wednesday, July 3 at 7 p.m. in Chapters on Kenmount Road. A local launch event will happen the following week Friday, July 12 at Studio Coffee on Water Street starting at 7 p.m.

editor@cbncompass.ca

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