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Esther Averill was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she became a cartoonist for a local newspaper as a teenager. After graduating from Vassar College with honors in 1923, 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, she founded her own publishing company, The Domino Press, which specialized in children's picture books illustrated by gifted young artists. Domino Press introduced French and American readers to artists from around the world, including Feodor Rojankovsky, who later won a Caldecott Award, before ceasing operations in 1938.

Esther returned to the USA in 1941 and went to work in the children's department at the New York Public Library. In 1944, she wrote and illustrated The Cat Club, the first in a series of stories about a black cat named Jenny Linsky. Between 1944 and 1972, Esther wrote and illustrated a dozen more book about Jenny Linsky and her cat friends, all of whom were based on cats she owned or knew. These cat club books proved to be her most popular works, and were eventually translated into six languages.
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