Pete the Cat and Acceptance in Atlanta

Sometime in 2008, while stopped at a light on North Highland Avenue in Atlanta, local artist James Dean overheard what he thought was a crazy street person exclaim: “Hey! I wrote a  story and just recorded a song for Pete the Cat!”

Dean told the guy to email him and moved along as the light changed.

Dean had been painting his blue cat figure, Pete, since 1999 and had achieved a degree of success in local art fairs, even self-publishing a book of Pete’s images. He doubted, however, that a stranger at a stoplight was going to offer a narrative that was going to change his world. 

By the time he arrived home, however, the email would reside in his inbox that would prove him wrong.

Eric Litwin creates a performance

Eric Litwin, the man at the light, was not a street person but a singer-songwriter who had come to Atlanta from New York. He proposed putting Pete the Cat in shoes (white sneakers), having  him step into water and berries of varying colors, and living with (accepting) the change “Because it’s all good.”

In a flash of collaborative acceptance, Dean understood that there was something to the story that he and Pete had encountered at that red light.  

The book they partnered on sold 7000 copies quickly, and publisher Harper Collins noticed.  “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes” eventually left Atlanta for North American distribution and a place (8th) on the New York Times Best Seller list for picture books.

Litwin and Dean wrote several more bestselling books together, and while they no longer collaborate (Dean’s wife Kimberley now writes the Pete stories), both have found a lasting place in children’s literature by accepting what comes, “Because it’s all good!”


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