lee wardlaw’s pawsome catku

#22 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

Lee with Mai Tai, the shelter cat who inspired her award-winning picture book.


Please help me welcome the purrr-fect  guest to top off our Poetry Potluck: Lee Wardlaw, winner of the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (Henry Holt, 2011)!!


*cheers, wild applause, Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet chocolate for everyone*

Lee’s favorite!
Lee (age 6) with her first kitty, Pit-a-Pat.

We’re thrilled to congratulate Lee on receiving this prestigious award, the most recent in a steady stream of honors and flat out love for this touching story of an adopted shelter cat (2011 NYPL Best Books of the Year (Poetry), 2012 CCBC Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2012 ALSC Notable Children’s Books, 2011 SLJ and Washington Post Best Books of the Year, 2011 Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion (Children’s Books), 2012 Bank Street Best Books of the Year (Star for Outstanding Merit), and more). Totally pawsome!

You probably know that Won Ton is written in a series of senryu, which are similar in form to haiku, but focus on human (or in this case, feline) foibles. Lee’s “petku”capture the very essence of catness: regal, in-the-moment, independent yet loving. Seems that Lee, a card-carrying cat lover since childhood, was always fated to pen this yowly gem. I’m sure Mai Tai wouldn’t have had it any other way, and I’m happy to report a Won Ton sequel is in the works! ☺

Just for us, Lee’s written a delightful, lap-worthy senryu about another of her shelter cats, and she’s brought a special cake, purrfect for us litter-ary types as we let out one final Meow in celebration of Poetry Month. So, lick your whiskers and put your paws together for Lee! *tail swish*

Lee: The poem is based on our kitty Papaya, who is a major hunter! He catches mice, rats, lizards, birds, snakes and bunnies. BIG bunnies. He tries to eat them on the living room rug; when we discourage that, he eats them on the mat outside our back door. He eats the rabbits in sections, starting with the tail. He saves the ears for last, and puts them in the sun until they turn into ear jerky. I’m serious! 🙂

Papaya, the mighty hunter, in his element.

A Catku
by Lee Wardlaw, © 2012

Plump mouse crouched between
two damp leaves. Sun-warmed sandwich,
whisker-lickin’ good.



Recipe for Kitty Litter Cake
Adapted by Lee Wardlaw

You will need:

One brand new plastic kitty litter box
One brand new plastic litter scoop
One or two 9 x 12 x 2 sheet cake pans
One 3-quart saucepan
One 2-quart casserole dish with lid (or other covered container)
1/4 measuring cup
Large spoon
Large bowl
Electric hand mixer
One large Ziploc® storage bag (quart or gallon size)
One microwave-safe dish or sturdy paper plate


One box German chocolate cake mix
One box white cake mix
One 3.5 ounce box vanilla pudding mix
One 12 ounce package vanilla sandwich cookies
One 12 ounce package Tootsie® Rolls (small ones are best)
Eggs, milk and vegetable oil (check cake and pudding mix directions for amounts needed)


1. Prepare the cake mixes according to the package directions. When baked, set aside to cool.

2. While the cakes are baking, prepare the pudding mix in the saucepan according to the package directions. When cooked, pour the pudding into the casserole dish, cover, and chill for at least two hours. Keep cold until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

3. Open the package of sandwich cookies. Pour them into the Ziploc® bag and seal. Crush and crumble the cookies through the bag, using your hands or the flat side of a wooden kitchen mallet. (If you have a food processor, you may use it to crumble the cookies in small batches.) Put aside 3/4 cup of the cookie crumbles.

4. When the cakes have cooled to room temperature, wash your hands, then crumble each cake into the large bowl.

5. Add all the cookie crumbs except 3/4 cup.

6. Using a large spoon or your hands, toss the mixture until well blended.

7. Spoon the chilled pudding into the mixture and toss. (You might not need the entire container of pudding; you want the mixture moist but not soggy.)

8. Spoon the cake mixture into the kitty litter pan. (If the pan came with a liner, you may place that in the bottom before pouring in the mixture.)

9. Unwrap three or four Tootsie® Rolls and place on the microwave-safe dish or paper plate. Microwave on high for 10-15 seconds. Pinch the ends of each Tootsie® Roll so they are no longer blunt; curve or coil each Tootsie®  so it resembles a kitty ‘poop’. (Be careful — the Tootsies® may be very hot in the center!) You may want to experiment, making each ‘poop’ a different thickness by rolling it between your hands (like when you make a snake out of clay) or by joining two Tootsies® together before coiling.

Bury each ‘poop’ so that it sticks partially out of the cake mixture; or place the ‘poops’ at random atop the cake. Sprinkle with some of the cookie crumbles that you set aside.

Continue softening and shaping the Tootsies® until they are almost melted (about 30 seconds). Drape them over the side of the box and sprinkle with a bit more of the cookie mixture. (Be very careful — these melted ‘poops’ are HOT!)

Sprinkle any remaining cookie crumbs over the top of the cake. Cover the litter pan loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to eat, serve using the pooper scooper!


The day before your event, bake both cakes and prepare the pudding. When the cakes have cooled, cut each into large squares and seal inside two large Ziploc® bags so they stay fresh.

The next day, follow the rest of the directions, above, and serve immediately — or within an hour or two.

Place any remaining cake in a sealed container and refrigerate. It will stay fresh and tasty for 2-3 days.

To create the complete litter box look, place the litter pan on top of an open sheet of newspaper. (I prefer the Sunday colored comics!)

Since most packaged cake mixes contain chemicals, trans fats, and corn sweeteners, I recommend using all-natural cake mixes. (Or, better yet, bake both cakes from scratch!) You will find all-natural cake mixes at your local health food store or online. I also recommend purchasing an all-natural vanilla pudding mix at the health food store.

This cake is fun to serve at Halloween or cat birthday parties! (Do not serve to cats, however; chocolate can be poisonous to felines.)

Lee serving cake to a young fan at last year’s book launch party.


Lee Wardlaw claims that her first word was ‘kitty’. Since then, she’s shared her life with more than two-dozen cats (not all at the same time!) and published more than two-dozen award-winning books for children, tweens and teens.  Lee’s picture book Won Ton – A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (Holt), illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, won the 2012 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Lee lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with her husband, teenage son (who loves kitty litter cake!), and two cats. For more info about Lee and her books, visit: http://www.leewardlaw.com

♥ Check out all six of last week’s Door Prize winners here.

♥ Don’t miss Lee’s interview with Renée LaTulippe at No Water River. You can hear her read from Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku and learn about some great extension activities for the book.


Previously: Menu/Giveaway/Door PrizesApril Pulley SayreMary QuattlebaumHelen FrostLinda AshmanGail Gerwin, Martha Calderaro, Kathi Appelt, Robyn Hood Black, Charles Waters, Adele Kenny, Linda Baie, Lesa Medley, Leslie Muir, Margarita Engle, Sondra Gash, Doraine Bennett, Janet Wong, Jill Corcoran, Lill Pluta, Heidi Bee Roemer.

♥ Stay tuned for a Poetry Potluck Wrap-Up on Wednesday, May 2, 2012! Who will win the Giveaway?


Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

33 thoughts on “lee wardlaw’s pawsome catku

  1. You absolutely did save the best for last, at least for this cat-lover. That cake! When I first saw the picture, I thought–wha??? Iva’s preacher cookies would be right at home in that “litter” box. I haven’t seen this book yet, but will definitely check it out. Winchester is itching to do some writing . . . catkus would be perfect!


  2. Lee,

    Congratulations on winning the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award!. I’m a cat lover too. I so enjoyed reading “Won Ton.” It was one of my favorite children’s books of 2011.


  3. Erg. I could not eat that cake. But, I’ve really enjoyed the poet’s small forays into poetry – whe really manages to make the most evocative haiku!


    1. She’s made everything look so realistic — those tootsie roll “poops” especially :). She wins the award for most creative cake — I imagine after tasting a few bites I’d get over my initial hesitation right away. Brilliant to serve it in a litter box with a poop scooper!


  4. I do appreciate the beauty of cats, but we are dog people here. Much like Lee (only rather less charming), my son’s first words were “dog doo.” But Won Ton sounds adorable — can’t wait to read it! Congrats to Lee, and kudos to you, Jama, for a wonderful month. Thank you!


    1. It’s interesting how most people are either cat or dog people. Of course we’re neither, being bear people 🙂 — but we do love both.

      “Dog doo”? Your son’s a born poet — alliteration right off the bat. 😀


  5. I love the ‘dog doo’ story. LOL!
    The kitty litter cake looks disgusting, I know, but it really is delicious. My son has already requested it for his 16th birthday next month. His friends love it, too. (And, yeah, I had waaaaay too much fun melting and shaping the Tootsie Roll cat poops!)
    Thanks, Jama, for including me on your fabulous and deeelicious blog!


    1. You are just too talented, Lee — I don’t know many people who can create such life-like cat poop :D! I guess it’s part of your vast experience with kitties; must look good on your resume.

      Thank YOU for your fun contributions to the Potluck this year. A joy to have you on the guest list!


  6. My kids and their friends would love it if I made this cake for them 🙂 They are very litter-ary like that… (to steal your made up word!)

    I like your hunter cat! I just – a couple days ago – did a little flash fiction piece called “The Gift” about a generous cat who leaves a headless mouse for the landlady! I think cats will never really be domesticated…

    P.S. I see I won a door prize – YAY!! Thanks – will send address!


    1. I hope you make this cake for them, Libby, and tell us all about it!

      Oh, flash fiction! Sounds like an intriguing story. I agree with you about cats — you can’t ever suppress that hunter instinct.


  7. This really takes the cake (have you heard that old saying?). With kitty litter cake & mouse sandwiches so tasty, I think you’ve covered all things possibly edible, Jama, & thanks Lee for the wonderful book & new poem too, inaddition to that recipe. I know quite a few kids who will love it! It’s been a fun month Jama, to see what you serve!


    1. I’m sure the kitty litter cake is a big hit with kids. I kind of marveled at the variety of Papaya’s victims, really winced when I heard about the bunnies (I’m especially fond of them, having been born in the Year of the Rabbit). I’ll pass on those mouse sandwiches . . . glad you had fun this month, Linda!


  8. Lee, I LOVE that catku. ‘Tis truly purr-fect in every way. Two paws up! However…BUNNIES???? Nooooo.

    Mai Tai is so beautiful. I love black cats, and miss my little black kitty Luca. Mrow.

    Jama, you crack me up! Litter-ary? HA! Wonderful post all the way around. 🙂


    1. You feel the same way about bunnies that I do, Renee. It just seems so wrong, doesn’t it?

      Thanks for all your great Poetry Month features — truly spectacular. Enjoyed every one of them!


  9. You had me at Scharffen Berger…You lost me at the cake!

    Congratulations to Lee for all the awards and honors. Won Ton is utterly awesome!

    Congratulations to Jama for hosting such a smashing Poetry Potluck! Such fun, great recipes and reminiscing too!


  10. Thank you, Lee and Jama, for a jam-up post to end this month of celebration! Won Ton is wonderful. I like the real kitty’s name, too – Mai Tai! Will be looking for the sequel. And the cake is hyterical… but I think I’ll pass and go back up to the chocolate. (Happy BDay to your son, Lee!)


    1. Jam-up! That does have a certain ring to it :). Lee assures us that the cake tastes much better than it looks. Phew!


  11. My husband and I own a small winery, so for a while we named our cats after wines: Riesling (who was a white kitty) and Beaujolais…and then came Mai Tai. (Not a wine, but at least a drink.) One time, when asked about the unusual cat names, my son – – who was very young at the time – – said: “Oh, we name our cats after alcoholics!” Um, that would be alcohol, sweetie…


    1. LOL! Great story, and cute idea to name the cats after different wines. “Mai Tai” instantly transports me to Hawai’i. 🙂


  12. I love the beautiful photo of that little girl with her hands clasped as if in prayer. Simply lovely. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Won Ton around, I am definitely intrigued. Papaya looks gorgeous too, and who would NOT love bittersweet chocolates. Lots of things to love about this post! 🙂


    1. That is definitely a sweet photo, Myra. You can just feel how earnestly she’s anticipating her piece of cake. Not repulsed in the least!

      Won Ton is a gem; all the awards and accolades are so well deserved. Hope you get to see it soon.


  13. I thought I was the only person crazy enough to have made kitty litter cake before! It is yummy, if you can get over what you seem to be eating… My younger daughter’s first word was “meow,” and she has adored cats her whole life. We have a dwarf rabbit who gets along with our cats pretty well. Thank goodness our cats aren’t interested in ear jerky!


    1. Good to know that your cats and rabbit get along! Seems to be more common than I thought for kids’ first words to be animal sounds :). What happened to “mama” or “dada?”


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