Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Erie pair creates kids’ book to benefit zoo cats

- By Sarah Stemen

ERIE, Pa. — When 2-yearold Artie Amick couldn’t pronounce the words “tiger” and “jaguar,” he simply did what any toddler would do — he mashed them together.

“It just melted my heart every time he did it,” said Artie’s mother, Catherine “Cat” Amick, 36, of Erie. “So that was always with me in my heart.”

Ms. Amick, armed with a degree in English from Gannon University and working in marketing at Erie Insurance, decided to take her son’s made-up word and combine it with her family’s love for the Erie Zoo to bring her son’s fictional animal to life.

That’s how “Sara Sassafras and the Tiguar” was born, a children’s board book that Ms. Amick wrote. She partnered with another Erie native and co-worker at Erie Insurance, George Lippert, who illustrate­d the book.

It takes an imaginativ­e look at the difference­s between tigers, cheetahs, leopards and jaguars and the different markings on their coats. She had created the fictional character “Sara Sassfras” years prior when she often joked with her husband, Brian, about giving one of their children that name.

But she didn’t just want to create the book and sell it in stores — she wanted to give back to these animals that gave her the idea in the first place.

“I knew right away that I wanted to get the zoo involved,” Ms. Amick said. “Artie grew up there. There was a period we would go every day. We would wake up and he’d ask to go to the zoo, and every time we were there, he’d have to point out the ‘tiguars.’ ”

The book will directly benefit the Erie Zoo’s big cat exhibits, including the lions, tigers, lynx, leopards and jaguar.

It’s most appropriat­e for kids ages 3 to 5.

Mr. Lippert began illustrati­ng by sketching with pen on paper and scanning in images but he has since switched to creating illustrati­ons digitally on a tablet and creating images that have a mixed-medium look with watercolor and ink.

About $4 from each purchase will be donated to the Erie Zoo.

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