This story was fun to write for a variety of reasons. Kayce Swigelson is a French teacher at Priory who wrote a children’s book, and our interview about it was fantastic. Her excitement about the book came through in every answer she gave as I asked her questions.
French teacher, writer, artist — and now published author. Priory faculty member Kayce Swigelson can add that item to her resume after publishing The Grand Adventures of Petit Louis, a children’s book that she also illustrated.
The Grand Adventures of Petit Louis follows the eponymous cat as he goes on a trek through Paris to find the best birthday present for his owner, Claire. While on his errand, he paints mustaches on famous works of art and French landmarks to match his own.
“Drawing mustaches on people in magazines is a pretty common thing people do,” Kayce says. “The cat in the book is kind of a mess, and he’s doing something like that, which makes him relatable to imperfect people. He’s just wanting to put his mark on the world.”
From an early age, Kayce showed artistic talent, and took art supplies on trips in order to create pictures of things she saw. She says putting that together with a written story is a natural progression.
“Children’s books were such a big influence on me, and the way they combine art and stories can be very powerful,” she says. Kayce hopes that through Louis’ experiences, the book can help expose children to French language, culture and landmarks and lay a foundation for their future learning. “When someone sees something later in their life that they’ve seen earlier in a children’s book, there’s a profound connection,” she says.
The book has been in the works for some time, starting as a project for a children’s literature class project in college. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Kayce says of writing a book for kids. “I’m not sure where it came from, but I’ve always wanted to quietly contribute to a child’s experience of the world.”
The process continued when she began pitching the book to publishers. “I sent a draft to a million publishers, and got a million rejections,” she said. Eventually, the summer before she began working at Priory, she began from scratch and wrote a final draft. After talking to Fr. Ralph, who has also written children’s books, she got in touch with his publisher — who also happened to be the father of one of her grade school classmates. The process, in all, took about 7 years.