GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

September 6, 2012

Back to the 'Bong-tree'

The 1871 nonsense poem “The Owl and The Pussycat” blossomed into another creation in the mind of a local writer and artist who has now written a book about the later generations of this interspecies couple, delivering with it a humorous and colorful message on tolerance.

In the poem by England’s Edward Lear (1812-1888), one line states that the owl and the pussycat “sailed away, for a year and a day, to the land where the Bong-tree grows.”

The owl and cat, who were madly in love, found the island and were married there and “they danced by the light of the moon” in the happily-ever-after poem.

With these and other verses in mind, Gloucester’s Ellen “EJ” Lefavour takes the story on to its natural evolution in her book “Tales of Bong Tree Island: Interviews with Descendants of The Owl and The Pussycat.” She calls it a story for the inner child in everyone.

“As a middle class white woman who was married to a Jamaican Rastafarian, I understand well the challenges faced by ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ and others whose friends, lovers or spouses are from another race, religion, culture (or species it sometimes feels), as well as those in same-sex relationships,” she said. “I learned so much about how people are effected by differences but don’t need to be.”

Not only did Lefavour write and publish the 122-page book; she also created the art for the 26 illustrations, many which hang in her gallery called the Khan Studio on Madfish wharf.

Lefavour, who lived four years in Jamaica when she was married, described her book as a historical fantasy that spins the background and history of Barney (the owl) and Caterina (the pussycat).

“Being a mixed couple, the owl and the pussycat were subjected to interspecies relationship discrimination in their native Ramsgate, England. They were forced to sail away to find a home where they could be free to love, marry and have their offspring without fear of discrimination,” said Lefavour laying out the background of her tale.

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