MY FIRST BOOKby Madison Brightwell on 09/05/22
When I was ten years old I wrote my very first book, entitled “Keepo the Puma”, a shameless rip-off of my favorite book at the time, “Kpo the Leopard” (which I still have a copy of by the way) written by the author I was obsessed with, Rene Guillot. My book was all handwritten of course. This was in the days long before computers and even before electric typewriters!
It’s a good thing I remember the book so well as I unfortunately did not keep a copy of it. My mother and I moved around a lot when I was a child. Two years after I wrote the book, mum and I were moving again and she said “you can’t take everything with you, so get rid of anything you don’t absolutely need”, so then at the grand old age of 12, I figured my childish book wasn’t worth keeping so I kept my set of Narnia books instead. What a shame!
Anyway, I remember it pretty well so perhaps I should just write the book all over again, as it still exists in my head. It was a full-length book with about ten chapters and before each chapter was a little four-line poem written in rhyme telling the reader what would be happening in that chapter.
Keepo was a puma who was born in the wilds of West Africa (where all of Guillot’s books were set). The little puma cub had a happy life until his mother was killed by a hunter and Keepo was taken off to a zoo in America and sold for lots of money. Eventually he met up with a kind man who rescued him and took him back to his homeland where he was reunited with his puma family and released back into the wild.
I was obsessed with wild animals, especially big cats, and I guess I still am.
Actually my obsession with cats extended to the small cats as well, “Felus Catus” as I believe they are called in Latin.
When I was ten, just before I moved from England to the US, I and my friend Maggie Tallerman (who also loved cats) ran a Cat Club together. We were on a mission to save all the cats in the world, and to tell people how great cats were. We made up a little magazine, called “Cats Weekly” (which later became “Cats Monthly” after I moved to the US), and because we didn’t have any way to duplicate the magazine and there was only one copy available, we would pass the magazine around to our members (who were all our neighbors) for “a penny a look”. We also would visit local cats and be helpful by grooming and feeding them.
One of our neighbors thought we were so cute that she recommended us to Yorkshire TV and so we found ourselves being interviewed for a segment on the local television news. I’ll never forget how excited I was when the headmistress called me into her office and told me, “you have to go home right now, there are cameras at your house”. In the interview, Maggie and I explained that the Egyptians had worshipped cats and we believed that cats should be worshipped again now.
I don’t know whatever happened to Maggie Tallerman – perhaps I could find her on Facebook one day, although she’s probably changed her name by now - and I don’t have a copy of that interview, but it lives on in my memory, just as my first book also lives in the pages of my memory.
It’s funny isn’t it how things come full circle? I didn’t know I would end up being an author – all I ever wanted as a child was to be an actress (or would have been a vet if I hadn’t been so squeamish) but I did know that I always loved reading books, and I always loved to write.