My First Book: The 15 Kittens

My first book was “published” back in 1979 in Elementary school. At the time, the school district was participating in a program called “the young author’s conference” where kids entered a contest to write and illustrate a story. The winners had their story typed up, illustrated by another student, and bound in 2 copies. One for the author and one for the library at Seattle Pacific University.

I managed to win the contest with my timeless story: “The 15 Kittens”

The Fifteen Kittens by Sigfried Trent

I’m not sure if this was 2nd grade (7 years old). Either way, I was quite proud of myself at the time. I’ve always been competitive in my own way and I quite enjoy winning competitions. I think the contest was among kids in my specific classroom rather than all the kids of a given grade at the school but I’m not certain.

15 Kittens Illustrator Justin Thomas

The great Justin Thomas got his own credits page. He illustrated the story after it was selected. I think at the time I was not overwhelmed with Justin’s illustration work, but in retrospect, he brings a level of artistic sophistication that is a good match for my writing talents at this age.

15 Kittens Page 1

I’m pretty sure my overall arc here was based on the fairy tales I was fond of as a kid. As for the protagonists, well I liked cats a lot. I’m not sure how I selected the number 15. I think the decision to make the kittens both smart and dumb was a good move. This way I can justify just about anything they get up to.

Justin does some fine work here calling attention to the kitten’s claws which become important as the story develops. He had the good sense to include them as visual foreshadowing since my text failed to prepare the reader for the violence I had in store for them. The green tail light will forever remain a mystery.

Kittens in a manhole, what could go wrong? This was long before I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, but I already had an early instinct that cool adventures could be found in the sub-terrain.

Justin did admirable work bringing the manhole to life. I like to think the red mark is an orange kitten looking down the manhole. The large kitten is a bleed-over from the next page. Since there were no color photocopiers, these are JT’s original Crayon and Pencil drawings on the printed book. Credit to Crayola, the colors are still pretty vibrant some 40 years on when I scanned these.

15 Kittens Page 3

At this time we lived in a house in Tukwila, WA when it was a mix of farmland and residential homes. My mother had a polydactyl cat that was a real pro at catching the sizable rats that lived in the area. Occasionally he would leave the head of one in my playroom as a gift for me.

Justin has created the Freddy Kruger of kittens here. The outline in red reflects the violence of the scene perfectly.

15 Kittens Page 4

The edit on this page has a story to it. While much of my terrible spelling was corrected, they left the somewhat obvious error in that these were “free” rather than “three” kitten hunters. I was told this charming mistake was one of the reasons the story was chosen over others. I, however, insisted that the integrity of my intent be protected and the error corrected for publication.

After all, what are we to make of “free kitten hunters?” Are they making their kitten hunting services available pro-bono? Are they libertine in their political views and unbound by the rules of polite society? I’m afraid I just wasn’t yet ready for such ambiguity in my work.

This is a critical scene for the story and Justin has done well showing the kitten’s state of mind as well as the menace of the purple-clad kitten hunters. He slyly implies the presence of additional hunters off-page.

15 kittens page 5

Old houses remain a source of inspiration for adventure and excitement in my imagination. There is so much you can find in a house that has been occupied for decades. Though in this case, we find only DEATH!

This appears to be an unfinished Justin Thomas piece. Perhaps his mother called him away mid-cat. Another mystery, why two chimneys Justin?

15 Kittens Page 6

Serves the bastard right! You hunt clever kittens, you get the claws!

Justin really nails this scene. The blues and greens are truly gruesome, clearly, the lad has a panache for scenes of horror and mayhem.

15 Kittens Page 7

I was pretty big into tickling as a kid. By and large, I remember enjoying it, but apparently, I’d either heard of it being used as torture, or the juxtaposition of something fun turning deadly intrigued me.

This is not one of Justine’s best works but it’s not an easy scene to visualize in a still picture.

15 Kittens Page 8

These kittens are not to be trifled with!

Fade to black… This is the end of The 15 Kittens story. Apparently, I felt no need for a happily ever after or any such sentimental rubbish. Just a scene of carnage and revenge by 15 adorable kittens against three diabolical human monsters. Though if you sympathize with the rat from page 3 you might feel differently.

Justin does well capturing the bleak end of the last of the kitten hunters, closing out the story.

Kitten Hunters About the Author

Under the category of things that you might not want to make available to identity thieves, a rather detailed author’s biography. I’m not sure that I did write any stories about monsters and robots as of that age, but I certainly did down the line. I’m most shocked that I said I liked sports as I don’t remember ever liking sports much that much. I do remember loving cut and paste though. I made endless paper hangers for my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars.

That bit about the hideout in a hollow tree is magical realism, never actually happened. My favorite holiday is now Haloween, but those food items remain among my favorites to this very day. I need to make snickerdoodle french toast before I die!

Sig and Dean playing Scrabble
The author (left) and his best friend Dean (right) around the time The 15 Kittens was published.
I even found the letter about the contest while scanning old documents.

2 Responses to “My First Book: The 15 Kittens

  • Stories about cats…there were lots of them in early childhood. One of them was the story of” Teaser and the Firecat”. Why was that in our houshold? A popular rock album music connection of course. Cat Stevens had an album released in 1971 called “Teaser and the Fire Cat” and there was an associated children’s book that you frequently enjoyed. Yes indeed, in the story the cat goes up on the roof and helps push off the moon which got stuck on the roof. Guess it also got stuck in subconscious brain bank of images. But as I have told you before early childhood memories are not crystal clear, but they are “moon shadows” in y our mind. Many times creativity is inspired by them and in later years it just seems like things just appeared right at a certain point in your life as you truly can’t remember the origin. This is one of those situations that had an origin that you do not clearly recall. Go to youtube, someone later made a video of thebteaser and the FireCat story from the childrens book. Of course the song “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens is the sound track to the short animated story. The video was made in 1977 but you most likely remember the story from the earlier book which you would have shared while sitting on my lap for storey time. We made up a lot of additional stories about the adventures of Fire Cat. Fortunately mother’s have better long term memories about their child’s early years than the child does, so these events eventually do get told to the adult version.

  • It makes sense to me. I remember the Moonshadow song well. I use it as my alarm as it’s gentle enough not to be annoying but up-beat enough to get me to wake up.

    I don’t recall Firecat, but that makes sense as an inspiration for that part of the story.

    I really have only a scattered set of dim memories prior to the age of 6.