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Jane Tanner Q&A

Lucy's Cat and the Rainbow Birds

How it all began...

 The story of Lucy's Cat and the Rainbow Birds started as a simple paragraph in Anthony Hill's book The Shadow Dog, about his family pets in Canberra ... the dog Sebastian, and the ginger cat Toby, who insisted he was superior to Sebastian in the hierarchy...

"Within the animal kingdom of our back yard, the cat maintained his position politely but firmly. Toby took no nonsense from anyone, although we tried to give the parrots an easier time of it by putting a bell around the cat’s neck to let them know he was coming. The trouble was that Toby quickly taught himself to slink in such a way that the bell didn’t rattle. We put a second bell on his collar ... then a third ... and yet a fourth, as each time he learned to hunt silently. He ended up with five bells around his neck: only then could the parrots come down to the feeding tray in safety."

Our friend, Verona Burgess, was much taken with the anecdote and told it to her daughter, Lucy. Lucy told it to her friends. And so popular did it become that Verona remarked to me one day, 'If you don't write down that story, Tony, I will!' 

It was a summons to action, which I honoured by giving Lucy's name to my young heroine.

In truth, our daughter Jane was the  real girl involved. But Jane is now grown up, with a step-daughter (and thus our step-grand-daughter) who is also called Lucy. So, for those who know, they all have a place in the tale.

Indeed, when you read Jane Tanner's Q&A you'll see there is a fourth girl with a claim to be the "real" Lucy.

Jane with Toby and Sebastian


Lucy's persistence will engage young readers as they "will" her to solve the problem, as do the cat's changing expressions. Children's Book Council of Australia, 2008 Notable Books





The real Toby "At Home" with our old dog Sandy