7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #712: Featuring Ashley Wolff

h1 October 11th, 2020 by jules

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It’s a pleasure today to welcome author-illustrator Ashley Wolff, who talks about a new version of an old book.

Only the Cat Saw was originally published in 1985, and as you’ll read below, Ashley had an opportunity to update it. This new version, on shelves in June of this year (Beach Lane Books), is the story of a small multiracial family on a farm. While they bustle about, getting ready for bed after a busy day, the cat is the only one to see the sun set; fireflies at night; an owl; a shooting star; and more. The text is spare and rhythmic with pleasing repetition, and Ashley’s richly colored illustrations are deliciously textured. Young children, who wonder what their pet sees at night, will delight in this warm, cozy story.

Thanks to Ashley for visiting today to share more about this updated version. And don’t miss her September visit with Jama Kim Rattigan to talk in even more detail about the book. (That is here.)

* * *

Ashley: Way back in 1984, I conceived and created Only the Cat Saw as only my third book. I sold it to Dodd, Mead and worked with my fabulous first editor, Donna Brooks.

It pubbed in 1985, won a few little awards, sold decently, and eventually went out of print when Dodd Mead folded. I was lucky enough to get several boxes of the remainders, which I hoarded for decades.

When my new, young editor at Beach Lane Books, Andrea Welch, had a baby daughter, I gave her a copy. Andrea and Anna loved it. One day Andrea approached me about reviving the book and re-doing parts of it—perhaps just the dated scenes of humans in mid-’80s clothing.


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I said, yes, of course, but I must re-do the entire book. I was 28 in 1984 and not yet a mom, so there were a few practical parenting things I’ve learned in the meantime. This gave us the chance to make a few changes. One small change was the name of the little girl, the main character. Her name had been Amy. I suggested an update to Tessa, and even that has a sneaky little backstory. My son’s beloved fourth-grade teacher’s name is Amy. I didn’t know her in 1984, but she later became a close family friend and went on to name her daughter Tessa. I adopted that as the best choice for a new name.

A much larger change was the ending. Both books begin at dusk and end at dawn. In the original book, the cat goes to sleep at dawn, so only Amy sees a butterfly [pictured below].

Here’s a spread from the first book of the cat sitting in the chicken house, watching a shooting star/comet:


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I realized that was pretty unrealistic. Chickens are penned up at night to keep out predators, like foxes, so a cat would not be able to come and go at will. So, in the second book, I set this scene in a sheep barn—a wide-open environment instead.


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I miss that watchful chicken but added a watchful sheep—you really can’t trust a cat—in her place!

The nursing illustration changed too. Once I had nursed a baby myself, I realized that a hard chair and a bright light were not ideal companions, no matter how blissful mom looks. That part I got right, at least once my nipples had toughened up!


1985 illustration


Updated illustrsation
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The spread of Amy seeing the butterfly seemed too quiet to my new editor:


1985 spread
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It followed this single page of Dad making breakfast; Sam in a perch on the kitchen counter, which is now considered “illegal”; and the cat asleep in the chair:



We brainstormed an alternative in which the whole family is gathered in the kitchen, making breakfast. So, it is now only Amy who sees the sleeping cat in the morning.


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I foreshadowed the ending by adding the laundry basket in the bathroom and reading-in-bed scene:


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Pictured above: Early sketches for ending
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The updated final spread
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ONLY THE CAT SAW. Copyright © 1985, 2020 by Ashley Wolff. Published by Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All images reproduced by permission of Ashley Wolff.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

1) Ashley also recently created a mural at my alma mater (for my grad degree). See here.

2) This video from Mandy Patinkin and his wife:



3) Surprises in the mail. Thoughtful friends.

4) Playing Love Letter with Blaine and our daughters—and my oldest daughter’s adorably bad poker face.

5) Issue 12 of Illustoria and the cover art by Matthew Forsythe:



6) Nice White Parents. Even if my podcast-listening these days lags, I’ve been appreciating this series.

7) This:



P.S. The celebration for the 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Awards has begun!



What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #712: Featuring Ashley Wolff”

  1. Hello, Imps! Hello, cat and Wolff! (Sorry, I had to!)

    Hi, Ashley! Thanks for sharing your story and your art. How cool to see the original version and the new version. The cat is adorable in every single image. The mural is glorious, too.

    Jules: Oh, that poor little pumpkin!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Discussing TV shows with friends
    2) Writing
    3) Helping
    4) Handling
    5) Managing
    6) Screening
    7) Sharing

  2. LW: What’s your current favorite show?

  3. Thanks for giving the Cat some love, Jules!
    My kicks were
    This post, for sure
    Climbing mountains in Vermont
    My little sister visiting for a month!
    Finding a gray tree frog
    red maple leaves
    getting close to finishing a new book
    and the time and ability to create

  4. Ashley, I found a frog yesterday too — a little brown one, so still. He wanted to pretend I wasn’t there and couldn’t see him.

    Thanks for visiting 7-Imp!

  5. Ashley: Enjoy the visit and the views!

    Jules: I don’t have a favorite currently-airing show right now, but the most recent series I watched was The Haunting of Bly Manor.

  6. I will have to look that up!

  7. Jules: Remind me, did you see The Haunting of Hill House?

  8. I did not!

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