Joseph F. Berenato
Landgraf releases The Big Fuzzy Cat
Hammonton resident Anthony D. Landgraf has written, illustrated and released his first book, The Big Fuzzy Cat.
According to the description, the story is an “8 1/2 x 11 hard-cover glossy color illustrated rhyming story about a day in the life of a Big Fuzzy Cat from the cat’s point of view on a fun adventure throughout the house.”
“What does a cat spend his day doing? Everything the cat does is generated for gratification. They depend on people to feed them and take care of their needs and they show love in return. The cat is seeking happiness and contentment. It is a simple formula for the day’s activities. That is the heart of this story. You see the cat doing all sorts of self-enriching things and regenerating with rest, living only to do them all over again—not unlike people but on a much smaller scale,” the description reads.
Originally from Kearney, then Fairfield, Landgraf said that he first entered the world of art while in high school.
“I was lucky enough to be offered to draw a funny little cartoon in newspapers; they were giving me $5 a week, and I was 16. That’s where I got my feet wet, and I was excited about it. I did that for a little while, and that’s how I got started. Then, I went to art college and I studied illustration,” Landgraf said.
Landgraf studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and, once he and his wife Celia married, the two moved to Arizona before eventually retuning to New Jersey.
“We moved back here, and I was offered a job as a supervisor in a direct mail shop. Fifteen years I was there, and they closed, so I managed to do really well and was hired at the post office in Pleasantville, and now I’m a career employee, a clerk in Medford Post Office. I ended up working with mail for the medical coverage, and I was getting married and I wanted to get a house,” Landgraf said.
The house the couple eventually bought was in Hammonton.
“We’ve lived in Hammonton, it’ll be 20 years next February, and we love it. We have great neighbors,” Landgraf said.
Landgraf said that he and his wife have always adopted rescue cats; one in particular served as the inspiration for The Big Fuzzy Cat.
“The original Simba, like in the story, came to our door in the winter a long time ago. He was about three months old and was looking for food. My wife give him a little basket to lay in with some food, and a warm blanket. I came home from work, and she told me there was a cat outside and was still out there. I looked at him, and he was stretching, and he was this little puffball of fur with big paws, and I said, ‘Oh, we’re keeping him.’ We had him for about 15 years,” Landgraf said.
Landgraf said that Simba, who passed away several years ago, was “a character.”
“He was so memorable. The things that he did, you’d sit back and say, ‘What was that?’ He would meet me at the door. He was like a 25-pound monster. Some people were afraid of him, but he was a gentle giant. He would sit on my lap. He would wait for me for when I came home. He would wait for me to go eat, then he would sit by me on the couch, fall asleep on the couch by me, then come upstairs when I went to bed and fall asleep in his bed. He was just like my shadow; it was wonderful,” Landgraf said.
The Big Fuzzy Cat is now available. Pictured is interior artwork from the book.
Landgraf said that he planned the artwork for The Big Fuzzy Cat around the titular character’s point of view.
“I decided to do it where the people aren’t really involved. I just wanted to show the feet, and pajama bottoms, and the silhouette of their heads in the bed, because it’s really about the cat from the cat’s point of view, what the cat does, what goes on at night,” Landgraf said.
In addition to real-life experiences with Simba, Landgraf drew inspiration from other sources, as well.
I was a Dr. Seuss kid; I always loved Dr. Seuss. My favorite book is by Michael McClintock called A Fly Went By, and that rhymed, too. I took after that kind of mode with rhyming. I wanted it to rhyme and have a drawing for every page, because you don’t want the child to lose interest. If you have a drawing for every page it keeps the reader’s interest ... I painted it in acrylic. It took me two years to paint that book,” Landgraf said.
Like many other children’s books, Landgraf said that The Big Fuzzy Cat holds a moral.
“The clue is at the end, when it says, ‘He thought to himself, I’m so happy and free, I’m just a big fuzzy cat and I’m glad that I’m me.’ I’m trying to convey the message that it’s OK to be you. Be comfortable in your own skin ... Be yourself and be happy,” Landgraf said.
The book has resonated with many of its readers.
“I’ve gotten so many positive reviews from people. A man at work told me his son has a video of him reading my book. A girl at the counter said she has a video of her daughter reading my book ... that makes it all worthwhile, hearing that. It was wonderful. That’s why I did it,” Landgraf said.
Landgraf said that, although The Big Fuzzy Cat was written with young audiences in mind, it is “not just a children’s book.”
“It’s for the child in us all. If someone appreciates good artwork and likes animals, they may appreciate this book and want to get a copy. They don’t have to be a little kid,” Landgraf said.
Copies of The Big Fuzzy Cat are available at Painted Turtle, located at 99 Stokes Rd. in Medford, N.J. It can also be ordered online at bigfuzzycat.com.