All in the Family

Multi-award winning author Donna Morrissey has teamed up with her daughter, 27 year-old visual artist Bridgette, on a new children’s book called Cross Katie Kross.

The concept is a first for the Halifax-based novelist, whose past works include Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance, Sylvanus Now and What They Wanted.

The scribe says that she was inspired to put the story together from a dream she had almost a decade ago.

“It’s about a cross little old woman who was having a dream about a beautiful place called Love Valley,” she explains. “She was awakened by a rooster crowing and she declared that she hated everything in her life and went off down the road looking for the place in her dream.”

The story’s namesake then arrives at a junction where the path splits into three directions, each guarded by an animal. “The outline of the book was all there,” she adds. “So then I started filling in the spaces.”

The decision to work on the project with her daughter was simply a matter of time and fit. “We had been talking about doing something together for years,” notes the elder Morrissey, “especially something that reflected our mutual interest in dreams. Because this particular vision was so vivid and colourful – it was actually part realism and part animation – it seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to collaborate.”

For her part, Bridgette – whose paintings have typically depicted “the frivolous, unkempt appearance of my fellows; hard working, ambitious young people still littered over with the tell-tale dregs of youth” – was quick to stretch her style.

“This book will contain nothing of the dirt-bags that are dear to my heart and everything of winding paths, talking animals and frolicking children,” laughs the graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. “The character, mood and tone of the work will be whimsical and surreal.”

Morrissey’s longtime publisher, Penguin Books, jumped at the idea. “I knew I had my hands on something special when I first read it,” says Commissioning Editor Jennifer Notman, who oversees the company’s children’s and young adult division.

“The manuscript had a timeless feel to it and I was sure that it would both resonate with today’s young readers and remain a favourite with children 10, 25 or 50 years from now.” 

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