Did you know that there is no physiological difference between a house cat and a lion, other than size?
Neither did radio talk show host Jerry Cesak, from the popular Jeff and Jer Showgram, until his vet told him.
“I was in the vet with some of my cats (he has six) getting a checkup, and the vet said to me, ‘do you know there’s no physiological difference between a house cat and a lion?’” Cesak said. “I started thinking, ‘what would it be like to have a lion in your house?’"
Thus, My Personal Panther was born. Cesak’s new children book, which is marketed for kids ages 5-9, is all about Lucy, her cat Aja and their belief that Aja is less house cat, more panther. One day, Lucy comes home to find Aja missing and her personal panther is gone!
An underlying theme in this book is also a positive one that reinforces the female heroine as strong, smart and independent, making it ideal for young girls to pick up and delve into.
“This is a great book for a little girl to read,” said Cesak. “Lucy has big glasses, she likes to read, she wears kind of funky clothes, she’s really smart and she’s not a Disney princess or a damsel in distress. It’s a really good image building book for little girls.”
Cesak, who’s been a La Jolla resident for 17 years, said that writing a children’s book has been a long-time coming, as reading is one of his fondest memories as a child.
“I always wanted to write a children’s book,” Cesak said. “When I was little, my mom taught me to read at 4 years old. I always had a book when I was a little boy. I’ve always loved books. I wanted to write a book and give children the pleasure I had when I was little.”
Of course, with children’s books comes lots of pictures, and Cesak says he’s no artist—hangman even gives him grief. So about a year ago, with the idea for My Personal Panther was well on its way to becoming tangible, the radio talk show host took a proposition to live air.
“I went on the air and said ‘I’m thinking about writing a children’s book. Do you draw or do you know someone who draws?’” Cesak said. “I got probably 60 responses just from one mention on the radio.”
One of those entries was from Terry Naughton, noted Disney animator who has worked on films like Mulan, The Lion King and Aladdin, to name a few.
“I knew exactly who the characters in this book should look like and I was going through people’s work and I got to Terry’s and the second I saw the first thing he sent me, I almost fell on the floor,” Cesak said. “I said ‘this is it. This is exactly the guy.’ It was a very serendipitous thing that happened from one mention on the air.”
Now that My Personal Panther is ready to share with cat-lovers everywhere, Cesak is promoting his books with some fun, interactive events that the whole family can enjoy.
This Friday, May 18, area residents can visit Cesak’s “favorite book store in the world,” Warwick’s, for a that will feature refreshments, Cesak, Naughton and some Lucy and Aja “representatives.”
“I can’t believe I have a book at Warwick’s,” Cesak said. “It’s pretty cool.”
The book signing event will include a discussion and presentation on My Personal Panther from both Cesak and Naughton and some behind-the-scenes secrets you wouldn’t otherwise know (like how Cesak’s cat Aja, inspiration behind the panther-wannabe, is really a diva).
Anyone who’s had a special relationship with an animal can visit Warwicks on May 18 at 7:30 p.m. and purchase a copy of My Personal Panther for $16.95. Each book purchase will get you two seats to the book signing event.
“We’ll get to meet each other, it will be a really good time,” Cesak said.
Want even more of My Personal Panther? Take your own panther-loving daughter out to tea on May 19 at the Prado in Balboa Park. Cesak is hosting an event at 1 p.m. for parents and their children that will include tea, cookies, lemonade and a special reading of the children’s book by Cesak. The family-friendly event will benefit the Rancho Coastal Humane Society and all of its own personal panthers.
Cost for the tea is just $17.95 and includes a copy of the book, refreshments, a tote bag, a t-shirt and lots of memories. Adults pay just $5 to accompany their children. Tickets can be purchased online here, but space is limited so buy now!