Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Alumna and children’s book author counts on success

Caroline Stutson signs copies of her new children's book April 10 and 11 in Denver. Courtesy of Caroline Stutson.

As she was writing her latest children’s book, Cat’s Night Out (Simon & Schuster, 2010), Caroline Stutson (BA ’62) didn’t give much thought to the poor fellow who would end up illustrating the thing.

“In my mind I had all these cats with flip-flops and all these costumes, and I never thought how hard that would be for an illustrator — to have 20 cats dancing,” she says with a laugh. “[The publisher] picked J. Klassen — this is his first picture book — and he’s just great. He was an animator, and you can see that. With just a few lines he can show attitude.”

Born from Stutson’s love of cats, dancing and New York City, the picture book is a counting tale that tells the story of what 20 footloose felines get up to once the human beings have gone to bed in the Big Apple.

“Traditional [counting books] are often from one up to 10 and sometimes back down again to one,” Stutson says. “But I wanted to think of something different, so I made this one counting by twos going up to 20. Each time a couple of cats come out and they go through the samba and the waltz and the boogie and the twist — there are 10 different dances that the cats are doing in the middle of the night in the city.”

Stutson has been publishing picture books for kids since 1993; her titles include By the Light of the Halloween Moon (Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1993), Pirate Pup (Chronicle Books, 2005), Night Train (Roaring Brook Press, 2002), and Cowpokes (Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1999). She says she had at least 100 rejections before she finally sold her first book.

“[A literary agent] came to Denver for a conference and I sent her some things in advance,” Stutson says. “She handed them all back to me at lunch and said, ‘There’s one poem in here that I like, and if you could turn it into a book I could sell it.’ I think I stayed up all night doing that, and that was my first published book.”

A theater major with a minor in education, Stutson honed her storytelling skills as a kindergarten teacher, owner of her own puppet show business and a member of the Littleton, Colo., chapter of Spellbinders, a volunteer group that tells stories to children.

“It’s been fun, and it keeps me in touch with which stories work and which don’t,” she says of her Spellbinders service. “I don’t tell my own stories, but I tell adaptations of books. I think kids are just great, and especially when they’re young, they’re so excited about everything — if you can get their attention at that age, my hope is that they’re going to be readers for the rest of their lives.”

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