Simply 7 with Lily Murray–“Monet’s Cat”

If you like Monet’s paintings, you will love today’s picture book!

Lily Murray grew up in the wilds of snowy nowhere, spending much of her time talking to animals and making up stories. She has continued to do this in her adult life, and now writes both fiction and non-fiction books for children. Her titles include big books about dinosaurs, rhyming books about dinosaurs and stories about escapee hot dogs. You can follow Lily on Instagram and Twitter.

“Monet’s Cat” is an incredible picture book that introduces young readers to Monet’s art work.  A little bit of history meets fantasy in this story where a stone cat (an actual statue belonging to Monet and passed down through his family) comes to life and jumps in and out of Monet’s paintings wrecking havoc.  It’s a clever premise with a fun delivery, and the art work is absolutely stunning.  This is a picture book you will have to see to believe.

Welcome Lily!

Me: You have written and published several fiction picture books.  What gave you the idea for this creative nonfiction story?  Can you tell us about your book journey?

Lily: It was actually the publisher who approached me with this, which isn’t usually the way I work. The publishing director had seen an article about Monet’s pottery cat, how it had been missing for many years and had finally been returned to Monet’s home at Giverny. As soon as I heard the story, I felt really inspired to write the book.

Me: Wow!  That story about the statue in the back matter is amazing.  I’ve seen several books about Monet, but never one written with such a fantastical twist.  Was it like this from the first draft?  How many revisions did it undergo?

Lily: The story did undergo a lot of revisions. At first I wrote it from the point of view of Monet as a very old man, feeling sad about the loss of his sight. The cat takes him on a journey of remembering, through his past paintings, and ended with him feeling inspired to paint again. However, the book was a little downbeat, so it evolved into how it is now, which I think has a much better lightness of touch!

Me: I agree. I love this version.  How much research did you need to do in order to write this book? What was one of your favorite facts that you learned about Monet or his work?

Lily: I spent a lot of time looking at Monet’s paintings, thinking which would work best in picture book format, and reading about his life. My favourite Monet fact was that he hired a gardener at Giverny whose job was to wash and dust his lily pads every morning before Monet began painting them!

Me: LOL!  That’s a great fact.  I didn’t know that.  I love how you teach all about Monet’s work by traveling through each painting.  What was your favorite Monet painting included in the book?  Were there any left out that you wanted to include? 

Lily: My favourite painting has to be ‘The Water Lily Pond’ (1899) – it’s the sort of painting dreams are made of. In one version of the picture book, I’d included ‘Houses of Parliament’ with Monet chasing Chika across the rooftops – and I was sorry we had to lose it.

Me: ‘The Water Lily Pond’ is one of my favorites too!  The illustrations by Becky Cameron are breath taking. They almost look like the original Monet paintings!  Did you see any of the work as it was being developed?  Were there any illustration surprises for you?

Lily: Becky is incredibly talented. I was so glad when I heard she was working on the project. I saw character sketches of Monet and Chika and some roughs along the way – but I didn’t see the colour until the end, and I was overwhelmed!

Me: I can only imagine.  It’s quite stunning.  Any advice for other picture book writers or poets?

Lily: Write about what inspires you – tell the story you want to tell.

Me: I love that.  Can we hope for more books about other artists like this one?  If not (or you can’t say just yet), do you have any other books coming out that you can tell us about?

Dino Talent COVERLily: I don’t have any projects about artists in the pipeline, but I do have a few books coming out that I’m very excited about! One is called ‘That Dinosaur Has Talent’ published by Buster Books this September. It’s all about the power of friendship and finding your talent.

That sounds and looks like great fun.  I can’t wait to read it.  Thank you for stopping by Lily.

Dear readers, if you haven’t had a chance to check out this story yet, you must track it down.  It’s a fun story about Monet and his magical cat that will introduce young artists to his work.  Plus it’s a wonderful excuse to traipse about in his gorgeous paintings.  Don’t miss it!

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