As I started to learn the business, I was more and more interested in getting  published myself. A year later a woman showed up at my door, picked up the cat, and said, “Regis, there you are!” She pointed at all the houses on the street and told me that many of the people in the neighborhood had been feeding the cat too.
Ah, your real life experience was indeed a perfect foundation for your story.  Is there a process you go through to generate new ideas for books, since you’ve penned so many?
I love the way you have each of the six lonely people in the book tell their own stories in their own voice. Was it difficult to present your message to children with appropriate language for the age range and with limitations on word count?
I had no trouble with this particular book, though it’s not always that easy with others. I’m finishing up a book called Sequoia..Wendell Minor is illustrating it, and his work is outstanding!
If your story is good, know that somewhere out there, there’s a person who will read it, love it and publish it. I loved reading that your grandmother gave you your first set of watercolors when you were 14.  How did that shape you as an artist? I always loved drawing when I was a kid, and I adored my grandmother who was an inspiration for a lot of things (I even wear the same perfume as she did).
Are you a cat person yourself, and what did you think of the story, The Cat with Seven Names, when you were asked to illustrate it? I was not at all a cat person but more a dog person – that is until my boyfriend decided to offer a cat to my daughter when she was 10.
The way you depict the town and the people in it are so fitting for the story, was it challenging for you to come up with the perfect way to illustrate it?
This entry was posted in Interviews, Picture Books and tagged Charlesbridge Publishing, Interview with illustrator Christine Davenier, Interview with Tony Johnson, The Cat with Seven Names, Writing Children's Picture Books. Illustrated by a Caldecott Honor artist, this moving tribute to the strength of family--no matter what its form--is the story of old Joseph, who finds a Mexican baby abandoned on a lonely L.A. Angel City by Tony Johnston is one of the most moving tales ever told in a children’s picture book.
Overview - Girls and boys will gobble up this hilarious story about ten goofy turkeys and their silly antics--and learn how to count backwards from ten to one at the same time! Books > Juvenile Fiction > Humorous StoriesBooks > Juvenile Fiction > Concepts - Counting & NumbersBooks > Juvenile Fiction > Animals - Ducks, Geese, Etc.
So I wrote and wrote, sent out manuscripts and got feedback like, “I really like this, but you should…” So I polished my work over and over again for a very long time before I finally got published with Putnam Books.
My most recent dog died at 17, and I was so heart-broken, I decided I would not have any more pets. Did you have any images in mind what your cat would look like before you saw these illustrations?

But I guess I’d have to say kindness and being open to allowing something or someone special into your life and realizing there’s more out there than you know. Do you have any advice for anyone out there who might want to get started writing children’s picture books?
She was thrilled to answer our questions about her work on The Cat with Seven Names and about life as an illustrator in Paris.
I live in Paris where the architecture is quite different than the US, but I spent 2 years in Providence, RI in the 90s, which is close to Boston, and just fell in love with the houses and neighborhoods over there. When you illustrate a book, do you often find yourself painting it numerous times or do you usually sketch out a picture until you get it right and then paint it one time? My first thought was that these were not my best drawings, but I have to admit that when I look at the book now I love it! It is a double-edged sword for teaching family diversity as readers will encounter a single black father raising a Mexican son that he finds in an LA garbage can. This silly twist on a favorite fairy tale clears up that question (and more) with humor and style.
I got a job at Mcgraw Hill Publishing, and later Harper and Row, working in the children’s dept. I believe in lifting children up, rather than talking down to them, and that means sometimes using challenging words. Then I can do the painting just once or sometimes feel I must redo the painting several times. Determined to raise this boy, Joseph does everything he can to preserve Juan’s culture while instilling an appreciation for his own African American values. I think it's a good book to share with kids so that they can see what some kids have to go through. One of her favorite jaunts is visiting the children’s department of her local book store, grabbing books off the shelves and sitting on the floor to read them.
I learned so much listening to people who dedicated their lives to creating children’s books. Naturally I fed him, and he kept coming back for more food until he eventually just stuck around. I may meet someone interesting, see a painting or hear a conversation that gets my mind going or like in the case of this book, my own life experiences inspire me. I know that young people see themselves reflected in the characters they read about, and I keep that in mind while I’m writing.
He follows me everywhere in the apartment, and when you call him he comes immediately, just like a dog. Look at a lot of paintings and children’s books; this is going to be a long and fantastic journey ! This truly is a story about the real meaning of family and about the bonds that can be made without sharing the same blood.

But his perfect mate must meet some stringent criteria: she must be odoriferous, have lots of matted fur and be the kind of nature lover that never picks flowers. Now there are nine." Girls and boys will gobble up this hilarious counting story about ten goofy turkeys roller-skating on a fence, doing a noodle dance, and more! If there were a Complete Works of Tony Johnston section in that book store, it would take her a while to get through that stack!
The quality of life is compromised when we speed through it so fast with nonstop emails and texting.
I often have this feeling that there are too many colors in an illustration or that perhaps I used the wrong color. Joseph, a black old man, got his “gift from God”—a “perfect and new” baby from a Dumpster, and promised to raise that baby. The paintings by Caldecott honoree, Carole Byard draw the reader in with soft brush strokes that mimic the tender exchange between father and son.
Finding such a catch isn't easy, so the prince throws a forest-wide fun-fest at which all the female Bigfeet can compete for him.
Since Poulbot has lived with us I put a cat in all my books: adding a cat to the illustrations is a way to tell more than the text can tell, just like a second little story. For example, I use blue and think red would be better, so I simply put red on top of the blue.
Rrrrrella is a good candidate but her wicked stepsisters (who wear wildflowers in their well-groomed fur) won't let her attend. With help from her Beary Godfather, Rrrrrella wows the prince at the fun-fest and leaves a giant bark-clog in her wake. Johnston's (The Chizzywink and the Alamagoozlum) wacky fantasy stays true to the Cinderella story, and her fresh setting and funny, evocative details will keep kids laughing. Warhola's (Bubba the Cowboy Prince) giant woolly creatures sport prominent, snouty noses and grimy-toothed grins. They cavort with glee and exhibit enough recognizably human behavior to sustain the visual humor. I hopelessly love Carole’s master creations, especially the one used for the cover, which depicts the Joseph and Juan’s “fierce, long hug” when a devil in the angel city takes Chucho’s life away. I am so jealous of Carole that she could draw pictures catching people’s eyeballs, as well as their hearts.

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