Esther Averill, daughter of Charles and Helen Ketchum, was born July 24th, 1902 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She began her career as a storyteller drawing cartoons for her local newspaper. After graduating from Vassar College in 1923, she moved first to New York City and then to Paris, where she founded her own publishing company. The Domino Press introduced American readers to artists from all over the world, including Feodor Rojankovsky, who later won a Caldecott Award. In 1941, Esther Averill returned to the United States and found a job in the New York Public Library while continuing her work as a publisher. She wrote her first book about the red-scarfed, mild-mannered cat named Jenny Linsky in 1944, modeling its heroine on her own shy cat. Esther Averill would eventually write twelve more tales about Miss Linsky and her friends (including the I Can Read Book, The Fire Cat), each of which was eagerly awaited by children all over the United States (and their parents, too).
Averill's world is black and white—good deeds are rewarded, bad deeds are punished, and transgressors are made to see the error of their ways. Moral overtones are evident throughout Averill's fiction. There is an emphasis, for example, on the praiseworthiness of facing up to one's problems, admitting guilt when one has done wrong, and treating one's fellows properly. One fun fact is that she writes under the pseudonym of John Domino, referencing back to her days under her publishing company, Domino Press. Averill's Cat Club books have been published in German, Swedish, Danish, Afrikaans, and Japanese. Praising the "tenderness" and "loving friendships" depicted in these books, Fran Ashdown concludes in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, "with their gaiety and charm they have made an important contribution to the genre of children's fantasy, confirmed by their continuing popularity."
Esther died on May 12th, 1992.
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