Betty’s a French dog and Cat’s an English. . .cat!

My Betty & Cat books reflect life with our two critters: Betty’s a retired sled dog whom we adopted. Cat’s a feral cat, born in the barn behind the house, who has since become tame. There was never any question in my mind about genders: it is what it is, you could say! However. . .

Because the first book was originally done in French/English I first went up to Paris to meet with a potential agent (at the time I still hoped to find a publisher). When she read the text, she said (in French; she didn’t speak English): “I see that the dog speaks French and the cat speaks English. But Cats are more intelligent, so could we have the cat speak French?” The immediate answer was “no”, and the subsequent answer was, “I’ll self-publish”.

On the other hand, an early adaptor in Quebec, who is French, and a teacher of plurilingualism, immediately liked the anti-sexist nature of the books: for her, having a female dog and a male cat was anti-stereotypical, and thus newsworthy. She’s been an amazing influencer for the books (you can see her read two of them with my nephew on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tuovC3ViUQ

In the same way I stayed faithful to who the critters are, it also never occurred to me to translate the books. Betty is a French dog, so she speaks French (or Dutch or Spanish, depending on the book; she’s the native-speaker); Cat came in from who-knows-where, so it makes sense that he speaks English. Play the ball where it lays. Things change. Realities differ. Shaking things up is a good thing. (Stereotypes may be on the way out, but where would we be without clichés!)

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