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Aug 10

What’s in a name?

When I tell people I have a bi-lingual kid’s book coming out in the fall, they react positively and eventually ask “what’s the title?”  When I tell them FLY CATCHER BOY, I sense some confusion on their part.  A book about a boy who catches flies.  Yuck.  What could possibly be interesting about a dirty habit? 

 
Fly Catcher Boy is really my husband, Takeshi.  When I was getting to know him during our dating phase, I heard so many stories that touched me and helped me to understand his character.  Takeshi is now 74.  At the tender age of nine the U.S. and Japan were at war.  Japanese children were evacuated away from large cities and settled in the countryside in temples.  This Government decree was to save the children from the impending bombings of major cities.
 
Takeshi recalls this time away from his mother and younger brother (his father tragically died several years before) as starvation time….starving from lack of food and starving from being away from the love and support of family.  After several days in the temple, an earthquake struck sending the children running out in fear.  They spent the night outside, shivering until daylight when their chaperones could go in and assess the damage to the temple.   Many in the surrounding village perished.  Food was already scarce; rice was on ration.  The children began to fish the small lake, dig in the ground for root vegetables, and catch anything that flew or jumped.  All the children survived and were eventually returned to their parents.  Takeshi recalls seeing his home, the only one left standing amid the rubble of his neighbours. Life as he knew it would never be the same.
 
He returned to school.  Years previous Tak was given the nickname “insect boy” because of his love and fascination with bugs.  He is quick to say that he never ate the fried grasshopper during his evacuation time, though.  He was particularly fond of the cicada and its life cycle.  It was his mother who taught him a special skill….catching a fly by hand.  I know, it all sounds like the karate teacher in the movie Karate Kid.  He caught the fly with chopsticks, not by hand though.  Tak  assured me he, too, could do it with chopsticks.  When I first witnessed the deed, I think I giggled a bit.  I’d never seen anything like it.  I was impressed.
 
And so, Fly Catcher Boy was born.  But there’s another protagonist.  The cat.  There’s a story there, too, of course.  While living in Mexico from 2000-2004 we adopted several cats.  The first one was a lovely male kitten who came right up to Tak in the shelter and rubbed himself on him.  How could we resist?  Of course we took him home.  We named him Tama (jewel in Japanese).  We always enjoyed watching him as he passed the shiny black piano, spotted his image, raised his hackles, and lept into the air.  As he grew older his territory expanded to the back yard and beyond.  He was an exceptionally long cat with an unusual ability to shoot straight up in the air.  He was fascinated with anything that flew and as he grew in stature he also perfected the “leap and grab” technique.  Butterflies, hummingbirds, even flies.  Of course, he failed a number of times before succeeding but once he got it he’d bring his trophies inside for us to admire.  No matter where a cat lives on this planet, they can be counted on to do the same thing. 
 
We left Mexico in early 2004.  I was ill and needed to return to Canada.  By then we had three cats.  We had no idea what our accommodation would be so we made the decision to find local homes for them.  We were lucky that one family wanted Tama and his pal, Chika; our pastor adopted Mimi, who was a loner in the group.  Leaving our cats was emotionally wrenching but I’ve always been grateful we found good homes.
 
So, there you have it.  A boy and a cat.  Nothing special really.  But just wait until you read the story!  Both you and the kids in your life will learn a few things about Japanese culture and language as you follow the antics of the boy and his cat. 
Coming to a book store near you, just in time for Christmas.

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