Pigeon & Cat by Edward Hemingway

Hello, Edward Hemingway! I’m thrilled we’re celebrating Pigeon & Cat together today, a picture book I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. It is full of, as you write in the story, light, art, and laughter. When did you know you needed to write and illustrate Pigeon and Cat’s story?

Edward Hemingway: Hello, John Schu! Let me start by saying how delighted I am that you enjoyed "Pigeon & Cat"! I’m such a fan of all that you do for readers, teachers, and libraries, and I also can’t wait to get your first picture book, "This Is a School"! It looks fantastic.

The spark of an idea that eventually became the picture book Pigeon & Cat started when I was living in Red Hook, Brooklyn over a decade ago.
At the time it was a relatively affordable and underdeveloped waterfront neighborhood (with no subway outlet), and the area felt to me like the wild west; sparsely populated and a little lawless. As a Montanan, I loved it.

On my frequent walks to the grocery store, bakery, waterfront and wine shop, I became aware of the feral cats that lived in the empty lots dotting the trash strewn avenue. The cats were very cute, and I would often approach them, knowing in the back of my mind that they would never agree to engage with me. Territorial and vicious (but sooo adorable!) they would hiss and run away as soon as I approached. I wondered what it would take to win them over.

Then hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the boiler in my building gave out permanently, and all the tenants had to leave. Down on my luck, I had the good fortune to find a cheap room in a friend's house in Bed Stuy, and the even better fortune to join a studio of picture book authors and artists in nearby Gowanus.

Newly relocated, I often thought about those cats. What had become of them? Did they weather the storm or move on to higher ground deeper in the borough? I had imagined that they had stayed put, their fierce, cautious instincts keeping them rooted to the only place they’d probably ever known. I could relate to that. I hadn’t wanted to move after Sandy. But being forced into a new neighborhood and work studio with four unique and successful artists had edged me out of my comfort zone and into a creative maelstrom. My studio mates were an inspiration to me, and I felt like I’d found a home among artistic and thoughtful peers. In hindsight, and at the risk of trivializing a terrible tragedy, it seemed as though in some small way Sandy and its devastating aftermath had presented me with a silver lining.

Since then I’ve wanted to write a book about my time before and after Sandy. About leaving a safe space to inhabit a larger one filled with uncertainty, but also filled with art and companionship and challenge. I wanted to write about winning over one of those wild feral strays in Red Hook and showing them there’s new life after a tough storm. Perhaps then they’d let down their guard and welcome anyone in who’d attempt to cross their path.

We are all capable of choosing to be kind, but it’s not always easy, especially in tough times. And strays are doubly wary, so as not to be abandoned again. But on some level we’re all strays, aren’t we? We leave the nest to make our way in the world and find our own family. Pigeon and Cat begins with one small act of kindness. When Cat finds Pigeon’s abandoned egg on the ground he protects it instead of eating it. This act completely changes the trajectory of both their lives. In a world that sometimes feels incredibly dark, I feel it’s little actions like this that usher in the light.

Scenario: A bookseller at the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, MT asks you to fill out a shelf talker about Pigeon & Cat.

Edward Hemingway: Pigeon and Cat don’t have much, but what they do have matters more to them than any material possessions. FRIENDSHIP. CREATIVITY. LOVE. This heartfelt story, featuring an unlikely pair of urban animals, shows how one special friendship can enrich an entire community. Recommended by: Eddie (who isn’t biased in the least!)

What materials did you use to create Pigeon & Cat’s beautiful art?

Edward Hemingway: I had so much fun creating the artwork in "Pigeon & Cat!" All the pages consist of oil paint on wood composite panels. I experimented with dripping paint and creating textures with sponges, rollers, and different brushes. And since I’ve always loved cut paper, I made the silhouette images from hand cut black paper which I then adhered onto the painted panels. When all the paintings were done, I scanned them into photoshop and would often make little adjustments in order to achieve the perfect image that I wanted.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Cat is very like myself. A born introvert who learns to tap into his creativity through the inspiration and kindness of others. This creativity is a boon for him (and me) as it brings him/us out of our shells and allows us to interact with others on a myriad of meaningful levels. Yay creativity!

Did you know Pigeon and her unique visual language are partly inspired by my Gowanus studio mates Sophie Blackall, Sergio Ruzzier, Brian Floca, and John Bemelmans Marciano? The kindness they showed by taking me into their studio to work when I had nowhere to go was life changing and the creativity and work ethic they all shared was an inspiration that I took with me when I left New York City with my partner 3 years ago to move to Montana. I miss them.

John Schu, you should have asked me
about my wonderful editor Christy Ottaviano. Without her this book wouldn’t exist. She believed in "Pigeon & Cat" from the very beginning, and has shepherded it through 2 publishers and several years of changes and revisions. Thank you, Christy! You’re the best!

Thank you, Edward! 

Edward Hemingway is the acclaimed creator of many popular books: Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story, Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, and Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. His writing and artwork have been published in the New York Times, Nickelodeon Magazine, and GQ Magazine, among others. He lives in Bozeman, Montana. He invites you to visit him at edwardhemingway.com.

Look for Pigeon & Cat on June 21, 2022. 


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