Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Deborah Frenkel!

Deborah Frenkel‘s latest picture book ‘The Truck Cat‘ has been receiving rave reviews and was voted Kids Book of the Month by one Melbourne bookshop. Not only does it feature an adorable cat Tinka who was inspired by Deborah’s rescue cat (read more below), but it also touches on important themes such as belonging, home and identity.

Thanks for sharing your gorgeous story, Deborah! 🙂

About the Author

Deborah Frenkel is a Melbourne-based writer of books, billboards, and even the words on the back of cereal boxes. Her writing for children includes picture books about nature, imagination, and different kinds of belonging. The Truck Cat is her third published picture book, alongside Naturopolis (2022) and The Sydney Harbour Fairy (2023).

Please find Deborah Frenkel at her website: Deborah Frenkel author and on Instagram.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

The Truck Cat written by Deborah Frenkel, illustrated by Danny Snell and published by Hardie Grant / Bright Light.

WHAT is it about?

It’s a story about cats and humans, immigration and identity, and homes lost and found. All explored through the adventures of Tinka the cat, his human, Yacoub, and their B-double tri-axle truck.

What is your favourite part of this book?

The very last spread! This is in essence a story about love and connection, and the final double page spread sums that up so beautifully, with much warmth and detail into the illustrations. And it’s an ending that might be a bit unexpected, too!

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

At the end of 2021. I pitched it to Rebecca McRitchie of Hardie Grant at an ASA Literary Speed Dating event in May 2022, and that set the wheels (no pun intended) in motion!

When is/was its release / launch date?

1 May 2024

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

Ooh, this is a long story! In late 2021, the neighbour’s cat kept turning up at our back door, having apparently decided that we were his new family. We kept carrying him back around to his ‘proper’ house, but after a while (and after he finally turned up bleeding from the face) the neighbours told us they didn’t want him anymore and were planning to take him to the pound (and we all know what that means 😳). So we adopted him on the spot and became his new family for real.

The first thing we needed to do was get him to the vet. We didn’t have a cat carrier or cage, so we put him in the car without one. He wandered happily around the car as we drove, and my husband made a very fateful comment: ‘he’s like one of those cats that belong to truck drivers!’ Right away, I knew there was a story in that.

So I guess that day I acquired both a cat, and the germ of what became The Truck Cat.

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

I thought I was writing about a cat, but as the first draft progressed, I realised I was actually writing a story about migration, and xenophobia, and loneliness, and resilience, and love. It feels to me like this story surfaced a lot of big themes for me – things that had brewed as I witnessed Australia’s evolving (some might say devolving) attitude to non-Anglo immigrants over the years and decades. 

I also included part of my own family’s migration story as an author’s note at the end – it’s tangential, because this is not a biographical story, but in a way it’s also central. Australia is my home not because of some inevitability, but because, with love, it was made into one.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

7.5 million Australians come from somewhere else. Many more of us have parents or grandparents who did. That means in so many families, there’s a story like Yacoub’s, and one thing I hope is that this book will open up conversations about family stories of migration. I also think this is a book for any cat person, too, or anyone who loves animals. Or trucks!

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

I adore them! There’s so much tenderness in Danny Snell’s cover illustration. I love the contrast between the toughness of the giant B-double truck and the gentleness of the moment between Yacoub and Tinka. I adore the internal illustrations just as much, too – and the endpapers literally made me cry, the first time I saw them!

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

As well as the standard socials, I’m doing a few events around Melbourne in the upcoming July school holidays – watch this space! It’s a bit tricky as I have another picture book (100 School Days) coming out next month, too, so I’m trying to pace myself a bit, and hopefully the two books will help promote each other!

The Truck Cat should be available in most bookstores and online.

OTHER information or experiences you’d like to share?

Thanks so much for this opportunity!

You are so welcome Deborah for sharing your delightful story with us 🙂 We can’t wait to see your next book!

#thetruckcat #migration #resilience #love #picturebook #justkidslit

Thanks to Gemma Creegan for sourcing this interview.

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