Marie Pavlenko & Marie Voyelle on Hotel for Cats and animal-inspired early chapter books

Hotel for Cats by Marie Pavlanko & Marie Voyelle. Book cover & author photos.

The book we've sent our Parakeet subscribers this month is a cat-tastic illustrated early chapter book that is perfect for newly independent readers aged 5+. The animal characters in this delightful story are quirky, fun and entirely lovable. Packed with humour and an important message about empathy, this was an easy pick for our subscription boxes. Co-creators and long-time friends Marie Pavlenko and Marie Voyelle tells us all about collaborating on the book and their favourite picks from independent publisher Chicken House.

What inspired you to write Hotel for Cats?

Marie Voyelle: Marie and I have been friends for years and have already worked together on other books. We wanted a new project together, and since we are completely crazy about cats, this subject naturally came up, with a good dose of humour.

Which came first, the story, characters or illustrations? How did you collaborate on the book?

Marie Voyelle: We met in a café, I had my iPad, and we started imagining the daily life of the hotel and what it would look like. From what I remember, it was Marie P. who came up with all the characters, and then I sketched what it looked like in my head. I love the cartoonish side of cats: they deform, stretch, contract, and have very expressive "faces"! It was a real pleasure to play with this stretchy side to enhance their emotions. Marie wrote the whole text and sent it to me. I laughed out loud reading it, spitting tea on my computer screen! I loved it right away!!

Marie Pavlenko: It was Marie V. who made me aware of the existence of cat hotels because her cat had previously stayed at one on holiday. It quickly became obvious that this setting was the perfect playground and adventure field for our story!

Which is your favourite cat in the book and why?

Marie Voyelle: I love drawing Bobine, she’s a ball of knots, with a flat face and big eyes. She’s very cartoonish! I also love drawing Couscousse, all round and with comfortable folds. In terms of character, I love Bobine's wisdom and the fact that she’s tough!

Marie Pavlenko: I love them all, but I think I have a soft spot for Couscousse and Carpette’s whimsiness. I love that they live in their own world, which only belongs to them. I also love Bobine's restraint and Mulot's hidden shyness – he is tough one with a marshmallow heart.

What message would you like young readers to take away from the book?

Marie Pavlenko & Marie Voyelle: In this volume, we love that our four friends come together and find a way to help Wolfgang, the little black cat who refuses to leave his room. They don’t give up at the first obstacle or misunderstanding. “This little cat has a problem? We won't stop thinking until it’s solved!” And what we would like readers to remember is that when they face a problem, they should talk about it. Sometimes, you find the solution on your own, and that’s great, but you also need to know how to ask for help.

What do you think would be the best thing about staying at the Hotel for Cats?

Marie Voyelle: If I were a cat, I think I would be Couscousse's sister. I would love Magda’s ingenious food distribution system!! Such a great invention!! You press the paw-shaped button, and voilà! The bowl is filled with delicious cat food!

Marie Pavlenko: I think the magic of this hotel lies largely in the attention given to each guest: no one is ever a nobody at Charamba, you’re not just the resident of room 7, you have a name and someone to go to if needed. And you can wander anywhere, there’s a great sense of freedom. Not to mention all the toys invented or knitted by Magda!

Why did you choose to write books for this age group?

Marie Pavlenko: I’ve been writing for young readers for almost 15 years. Children have an extraordinary, limitless imagination. Anything can exist! They are not shaped or confined; they are free, and writing for them is embarking on a journey that belongs only to that age. It’s a great privilege, really.

Do you have a favourite place to write and/or illustrate?

Marie Voyelle: I have a desk at home, but I must admit it’s gathering dust... Well, of course! My desk faces a wall: boring! So, I sit at the dining table, where I can see the street from my spot, the sun (or rain), people walking their dogs, and sometimes the neighbours’ big ginger cat going for a walk!

Marie Pavlenko: I have a desk with plants, a large window to see the birds, and a very big chair because my cats love to sleep behind me while I work... But sometimes, I confess, I work in bed (guess where the cats are then...).

Which other books with animal characters for younger readers would you recommend our subscribers read next?

Marie Voyelle: Oh no! I’m not very familiar with the Chicken House catalogue yet, as Marie and I are from France! Wait, let me look at their website :) Soooo, based on the cover, I think I would like to read Milton the Mighty which looks funny (a story about a spider and his friends)! I must admit I’m afraid of spiders, and with my 5-year-old daughter, we give them names when we find them in the house to see them in a more amusing way!

Copies of our Hotel for Cats pack, including a copy of the book and loads of fun activities to go with it, are now available for individual purchase. Grab a copy while stocks last!

This post includes affiliate links to our page, meaning we receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase through them. Additionally, a percentage from all sales on the platform goes directly to local UK bookshops which is an initiative we're delighted to support!


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