Esther Averill

Esther Averill (July 24, 1902 – May 19, 1992) was an American writer and illustrator best known for the Cat Club picture books, a collection of 13 stories featuring Jenny Linsky, a small black cat who always wears a red scarf. She was also an editor and publisher.

Esther Averill
BornEsther Holden Averill
(1902-07-24)July 24, 1902
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
DiedMay 19, 1992(1992-05-19) (aged 89)
New York City, New York, USA
OccupationIllustrator, publisher, writer
Alma materVassar College (1923)
GenreChildren's picture books
Notable worksThe Cat Club series
Notable awardsNew York Times Best Children's Book of the Year, for "Jenny's Birthday Book" (1954)


Averill was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on July 24, 1902, daughter of Charles Ketchum and Helen (Holden) Averill,[1] where she was a teenage cartoonist for a local newspaper.[2] After graduating from Vassar College with honors in 1923,[3] she joined the editorial staff of Women's Wear Daily. In 1925 she moved to Paris, France to work as a photojournalist's assistant. In 1931, Averill founded the Domino Press, which specialized in "children's picture books illustrated by gifted young artists and reproduced by means of the excellent color processes that were available". Domino's first publication was a book entitled Daniel Boone : les adventures d'un chasseur americain parmi les peaux-rogues, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky (who later won a U.S. Caldecott Medal for picture book illustration). Averill worked on an English edition of the same title also released in 1931.[4] Domino published several other children's books before it ceased operations in 1938.

Averill returned to the United States in 1941,[5] continuing with Domino press until it ceased operations and then working in the children's department at the New York Public Library.[1] In 1944, she wrote and illustrated The Cat Club, the first in a series of stories about a cat, Jenny Linsky, who lived in New York City with her master, the benevolent Captain Tinker. Between 1944 and 1972, Averill wrote and illustrated a dozen more stories about Jenny Linsky and her cat friends, all of whom were based on cats Averill owned or knew. The cat club books proved to be Averill's most popular works, and were eventually translated into six languages.[6] Starting in 2003,[7] a series of reissues by the New York Review Children's Collection brought all the cat club titles except for Jenny's Bedside Book back into print.

Averill died in New York City on May 19, 1992.

Cat Club series

  • The Cat Club, 1944
  • The School for Cats, 1947
  • Jenny's First Party, 1948
  • Jenny's Moonlight Adventure, 1949
  • When Jenny Lost Her Scarf, 1951
  • Jenny's Adopted Brothers, 1952
  • How the Brothers Joined the Cat Club, 1953
  • Jenny's Birthday Book, 1954
  • Jenny Goes to Sea, 1957
  • Jenny's Bedside Book, 1959
  • The Fire Cat, 1960
  • The Hotel Cat, 1969
  • Captains of the City Streets, 1972

Other works

Daniel Boone, 1931 (with Lila Stanley; illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky)
Powder: The Story of a Colt, a Duchess, and the Circus, 1933 (with Lila Stanley; illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky)
Fable of a Proud Poppy, 1934 (as John Domino; illustrated by Emile Lahner)
Flash: The Story of a Horse, a Coach-Dog, and the Gypsies, 1934 (illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky)
Political Propaganda in Children's Books of the French Revolution, 1935
The Voyages of Jacques Cartier, 1937 (illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky)
The Adventures of Jack Ninepins, 1944
Daniel Boone, 1945 (new text for the 1931 title, same illustrations by Feodor Rojankovsky)
King Philip: The Indian Chief, 1950 (illustrated by Vera Belsky)
Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence, 1956 (new text of the 1937 title, same illustrations by Feodor Rojankovsky)
Eyes on the World: The Story and Work of Jacques Callot, 1969

See also


  1. "Esther (Holden) Averill." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2003.
  2. "Esther Averill Papers". de Grummond Children's Literature Collection. University of Southern Mississippi. Retrieved 2013-08-28. A small collection of materials dated 1953–1971; processed November 12, 1997. With biographical sketch, no date.
  3. Vassar Miscellany News, Volume VII, Number 58, 15 June 1923
  4. Catalog of Copyright Entries. New Series: 1946
  6. Rollyson, Carl. Guide to Literary Masters & Their Works, January 2007, p1, 1p
  7. Schwarz, Christina. Atlantic Monthly (10727825). Dec2003, Vol. 292 Issue 5, p131-132. 2p.
Other sources
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