A local author and illustrator met with us this morning to discuss their children’s book, Silas the Great House Cat.

Both the author and the illustrator are from Galesburg— right here in the Central Illinois area.

Now that Halloween is just around the corner, Silas the Great House Cat is the purr-fect story for the season. It is based on a true story that happened last Halloween at the Great House mansion in Galesburg, IL. On the night of Halloween, a little kitten wandered into the Great House mansion in Galesburg. He was a little hungry and everyone saw how nice of a cat he was, so they decided to let Silas stay the night.

Janet Tolle wrote the book from the cat’s perspective. It follows Silas the cat as he realizes just how magical the Great House really is. These are things all children grapple with and will understand. The story of Silas the Great House Cat is one of kindness and courage. He faces feelings of shyness and loneliness, which Tolle believes are feelings children will really resonate with. The author decided to write a children’s book because she has a background in art, preschool education, and animal rescue. Tolle said in a statement, “People have told me that as children they thought the historic house was the White House or a plantation house. I want to dispel those notions with this book.” She goes on to say, “I want to give today’s children a chance to learn and feel something about the house. I want them to be able to say, ‘that’s where Silas lives’ and be able to articulate what they know or feel about the house.”

Along with authoring the book, Janet Tolle also published the book. She was able to write this light-hearted, sweet story and ultimately take on the role of a publisher. She encourages local authors, saying, “I think a lot of us can really do this kind of thing.” She continues, “It was just really going ahead and pushing through it and making it happen.” Tolle was happy to learn how to be a publisher through this entire process. It was a huge learning curve, but she still wants to encourage people that anyone can do this. Janet Tolle’s community inspired her through and through. The book would not have happened without the inspiration from the Great House, the real-life Silas, and the children in the community.

The illustrator, Dusty Scott, was able to take on a new feat with this project. He typically paints with acrylics and oils, but sometimes he does portraits. His illustrations for the children’s book include local people and landmarks. They even had local models pose for the paintings. This way, the Galesburg community was really able to come to life on the page. When he took on this project, he told Tolle that he wanted to paint all the illustrations at once. He says creating a fourteen-painting series was fun. It was a unique experience. He was excited to bring himself back to a time of childhood wonderment. It was special for him to be able to add his daughter to his artwork and think about the kind of things she would like.

Silas, the real cat, is named after Silas Willard, the man who built the house as his home in 1857. Willard was an important city founder who was an abolitionist, supported the Underground Railroad, and brought the CB & Q railroad to Galesburg. He left money for a city elementary school in Galesburg, which is named Silas Willard School.

Silas the Great House Cat is available anywhere you would normally buy a book.

Janet Tolle will be hosting a couple of events over the next several weeks.

On Saturday, September 17th, she will be doing a book signing at Wordsmith Bookshoppe in Galesburg, IL. This event will take place from 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM.

On Saturday, September 24th she will be doing a book signing, a book reading, as well as a house tour at the Historic Great House on 509 E. Losey in Galesburg, IL.

On Saturday, October 22nd, Janet Tolle will be at I Know You Like a Book in Peoria Heights for a book signing.

If you would like more information on Silas the House Cat, you can visit the official Facebook page.

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