It took a while, but Renee Domogauer of College Park finally had the chance to share a true story about kittens discovered alive inside a 300-year-old Connecticut oak tree that she’d been working on for more than a decade.
Domogauer, 69, conducted a reading July 24 at the College Park Community Library from her recently-published book, “The Washington Oak Kittens.”
Domogauer said no one was quite sure how the five kittens ended up inside the trunk of the tree in May 2003, but she said she became interested in the story as soon as she heard about it from her friend, Lynne Hicks of South Kent, Conn. Soon the friends began collaborating on a children’s book based on the story.
The book, which was published in February, is a tribute to Hicks, who died in 2007 after a battle with cancer.
Domogauer, a former school librarian and English as a Second Language teacher, said she and Hicks were inspired by the story of five kittens discovered in the trunk of a storied oak tree in nearby Gaylordsville, Conn. after the tree died.
The tree was known as the “Washington Oak” because George Washington is said to have stopped to rest under its branches more than 200 years ago.
“Having an inspiration is a really big part of being able to put one’s writing skills to use,” said Domogauer, a first-time author who has dabbled in writing since retiring in 2007. “I remember the day we [sat] there and thought, ‘Let’s see, how did the cats happen to be in the tree?’”
Domogauer said she and Hicks modified the story slightly to make it more accessible to young audiences. She said they invented a mother cat named Sophie Katz and emphasized the story’s New England setting by giving the kittens “old-fashioned New England names” such as Nathaniel, Jacob and Mary.
Since releasing the book in February, Domogauer said she has done several readings in Connecticut and has sold about 450 copies, but recently realized she could be doing more to publicize the book in her own city.
Ryley Komisar-Bury, 10, of Hyattsville said she was very interested in the story and wanted to buy a copy after the reading.
“We have three cats at home and we really like cats,” she said. “We needed to go to an event at the library and this sounded really cool.”
Komisar-Bury attended the reading with her mother, Renna Komisar.
“We’re both involved with reading and books,” said Komisar, 48. “It seemed like a perfect pairing for a mother-daughter outing.”
Elaine Stillwell, co-director of the community library, said part of the appeal of Domogauer’s book is that it is appropriate for children of many ages.
“The illustrations, I think, are very eye-catching for very young children,” Stillwell said. “But it also has that bit of history to it that would be appealing to older, school-age children.”