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La Jollan’s debut children’s book explores international friendship and adventures through traveling feline

"Amara Sets Sail" is the debut children's book by La Jolla resident Suzanne Morreale.
(Courtesy of Suzanne Morreale)

The voyages of Amara the cat make up the story in the picture-filled ‘Amara Sets Sail.’

Thailand? Egypt? Turkey? Where in the world is a globe-trotting, seafaring Bengal cat supposed to find lifelong friends?

In a quest to find out, the voyages of Amara the cat make up the story in the picture-filled pages of La Jolla resident Suzanne Morreale’s debut children’s book, “Amara Sets Sail,” for readers ages 4-7. The book was released July 26.

“Amara wants to find friends and a family on land after a life at sea, so she travels the world meeting cats from other countries that show her around,” Morreale said. “The goal of doing this was to show glimpses of the outside world to kids and get them interested in other cultures and places.”

When it came to creating the central character, Morreale looked to her own home. “Kids seem to like animals and I thought I would use my Bengal cat Amara, who is very animated and beautiful, as inspiration. I thought she could be the one that shows them around.”

Morreale took to writing after her recent retirement as a pharmacist. “I wanted to do something more creative,” she said. “As a kid, I loved picture books and doing creative things like painting and drawing. After I retired from such a scientific field, I took a writing class at a community college, which happened to be on children’s books. I ended up with Amara’s story through that class and was able to get it published.”

La Jolla resident Suzanne Morreale began writing after her retirement as a pharmacist.
(Courtesy of Suzanne Morreale)

Now that it is available to readers, Morreale said she is “very excited to have it out. I’m glad to have the opportunity to produce a book that integrates cats and glimpses of the world.”

Morreale and her husband, Anthony, are longtime travelers and have visited more than 100 countries in their lifetimes. “I think there is so much to learn outside the U.S.,” Morreale said. “There is just so much out there to discover that kids don’t get a chance to see and learn about. Kids don’t watch the news at that age but can learn through books.”

“The goal of doing this was to show glimpses of the outside world to kids and get them interested in other cultures and places.”

— Suzanne Morreale

Even the creation of the book was international.

Serbia-based Marižan Ranisavljev, who goes by the name Maja, is the illustrator. “Maja is very curious about everything and finds inspiration for her illustrations in every corner of the world,” according to a news release. “She enjoys gardening and she is an ardent observer of the secret life of her cats.”

Since “Amara Sets Sail” was released, Morreale has done a series of book signings and readings, including a recent “Weekends with Locals” appearance at Warwick’s bookstore in La Jolla.

“I am really happy about being able to have the opportunity to share with the kids,” Morreale said. “The response has been really positive.”

Whether this means a future in writing remains to be seen.

“I have other stories I’m writing and would like to see published, but we’ll see if they are accepted,” Morreale said. “I have a sequel to Amara’s story that I would love to get out there.”

“Amara Sets Sail” is available though online booksellers and at suzannemorreale.com. ◆