Arguably, nonfiction books are more divergent than any other type of writing. The following questions provide a practical approach for judging such books: (1) Would a person interested in the subject pull the book off the shelf? (2) Would they want to look inside? (3) Would they be tempted to explore the book further? (4) If they read the book, would they find accurate, up-to-date facts and would their expectations otherwise be met? (5) Does the book provide a bonus—something unexpectedly satisfying?
If you are a cat-lover, you likely would pull A Cat Named Fatima by James Kenyon DVM from a shelf. Being a sensitive and intelligent person (as are most cat-lovers), you would be attracted to the cover art of the book—the soft, warm colors in the picture of a young girl watching a cat; the playfulness of the cat paws worked into the title; the subtitle, “Tales of 23 Cats & the People Who Loved Them;” and, on the back cover, proof the book is, indeed, written by a “DVM”—a veterinarian who obviously loves cats. Open the book, skim a few pages and be prepared to want to explore the book further. As you read, your initial impressions will be confirmed.
However, James Kenyon has not written an ordinary cute cat book. Each cat is introduced with an ode containing hints of what will follow. Kenyon slips in facts about cats and gives his readers insight into how veterinarians approach medical issues. Throughout the book he shows compassion for pets and pet owners and respect for his readers’ intelligence and their ability to handle technical terms and concepts. The cartoon-like illustrations of artist Thomas Marple add to the book’s charm. This, indeed, is a book filled with unexpectedly satisfying bonuses.
2022 J. Donald & Bertha Coffin Memorial
Nonfiction Book Judge