The Cat Who Walked Across France: A Picture Book (Hardcover)
An unforgettable tour of France
The cat and the old woman have lived happily together for many years in the stone house by the sea. But when the old woman dies, the cat is packed up with her belongings and sent north to the village where she was born. Soon he is forgotten. He walks the streets aimlessly until, spurred by memories and a longing to return to the place he knows and loves, the cat embarks on a journey to find the home he was taken away from.
In lyrical prose and breathtaking images, Kate Banks and Georg Hallensleben take the reader on a journey across the Norman countryside, past ancient ruins, through bustling cities, to the sparkling ports of the Mediterranean Sea and a place the cat can call home.
About the Author
Kate Banks has written many books for children, among them Max’s Words, And If the Moon Could Talk, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and The Night Worker, winner of the Charlotte Zolotow Award. She grew up in Maine, where she and her two sisters and brother spent a lot of time outdoors, and where Banks developed an early love of reading. “I especially liked picture books,” she says, “and the way in which words and illustrations could create a whole new world in which sometimes real and other times magical and unexpected things could happen.” Banks attended Wellesley College and received her master's in history at Columbia University. She lived in Rome for eight years but now lives in the South of France with her husband and two sons, Peter Anton and Maximilian.
What can I say about me? That I was born in 1958 in a German town called Wuppertal and that I have two sisters. That I didn't like to go to school because I thought it was terribly boring and I preferred riding my bicycle in the woods, and drawing the landscapes I encountered.
I made drawing after drawing in the forest and in Bonn, the city where I lived, carrying with me on my bike a wooden case with all my art supplies inside: pens, inks, and watercolors, as well as a very small folding chair, so small that every time I got up after sitting on it for an hour my legs had completely fallen asleep, and I stumbled like an idiot, unless there was a fence to grab on to!
Even on vacations with my parents, I passed my time filling sketchbooks and sheets of paper with drawings and watercolors. For me it has always been the most natural thing to do. Almost all children draw, and, encouraged by my parents, I just never stopped.
The same year I finished school, I had my first solo exhibition in a gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. I had written a letter to an Austrian draftsman whose drawings I admired, Paul Flora, and he answered me with an incredibly friendly letter, along with a set of drawing pens, and even a drawing "just for demonstration." He showed my watercolors to his Swiss editor and gallery owner, and I received a letter just as my family was leaving on vacation, asking if I had ever exhibited, and if I would like to do so. I remember waiting hours for the right moment to show my parents the letter. I was so proud.
Soon after finishing school, I went to live in Italy, in Rome. I started drawing and painting more seriously there, and began showing my paintings. I met Kate Banks, who had already published several books she had written. I had always loved the idea of doing illustrations for children's books, and I had written a very simple story of my own, doing new versions of illustrations over and over for the same text. I had showed this at the children's book fair in Bologna, Italy, to a French publisher who seemed to like my illustrations. The story was set in the jungle, and when Kate saw the illustrations, she told me she had written a text that was also set in the jungle, and she asked me if I wouldn't like to try to do some illustrations for her story, which was called Baboon.
Since then we have created three picture books together. I really like to have someone to show my illustrations to, someone who asks me things like "Why don't you draw the lizard a little bigger?"
I always find it difficult to judge my own drawings, so each day when my fiancée, Anne, comes home from her work, she looks at what I've done. When she likes my work, I am happy, because her opinion is almost always right.
I always make many versions of the same illustrations and am lucky to have an editor who will call a halt to this, because a book eventually has to be printed. I always have technical problems, I think because I enjoy having them when I start to see how a certain paint works on a certain type of paper, I change them to see how a different combination might work. Thus I am hardly ever content with what I have done, and the moment a book is published I think what I could have done to make it better!
I lived in Rome, with some interruptions, for about twenty years. Last year, I moved to Paris, where I now live with Anne, and too many cats.
“Hallensleben composes space like Matisse and loads his brush with paint like Van Gogh...Francophiles and cat fanatics will melt at the immensely satisfying conclusion.” —Starred, Publishers Weekly
“Banks and Hallensleben make beautiful books together.” —American Bookseller
“Exquisite.” —Boxed, Booklist
“With the rich palette and thick brushwork of Rouault or Gaugin, Hallensleben magically captures the light of France and the forthright courage of a small gray cat...Beautifully realized.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Hallensleben's drawings, using richly saturated colors, reflect a deeply loving view of France, both countryside and towns, and include landmarks that Francophiles can easily pick out.” —The Horn Book
“Rich in theme and evocative in tone, the cat's quest will resonate with young readers.” —School Library Journal
“This lonely and determined cat, who puts one in mind of Kipling's solitary cat walking down its allée of trees, is a heroine grown-ups are likely to find especially pleasing...Georg Hallensleben's paintings of her trip have at once a poster-paint Fauve simplicity and a Vuillard-melancholy...plaintive and memorable.” —The New York Times Book Review
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