About This Blog

In addition to having written this story, I was also the painter, sculptor, interior decorator, mason, gardener, and plumber of the sets. The rooms were built by hand from wood. The stone walls were formed from plaster. The floors are handmade from inlaid wood, mother-of-pearl, and plaster. The characters were painted in oils on gessoed paper, then cut out and placed in the sets. I photographed the scenes with a Nikon D300.

The book will be out in September 7, 2009, and the official www.butwhowillbellthecats.com website can be viewed by clicking ENTER in the right-hand margin. This working blog gives you a glimpse into the process of how I created the sets and characters. I made this blog for my editor and designer so they could view my progress, but now I have opened it up for all to see. Enjoy! - Cynthia von Buhler
Click on the images to view them larger. This is the surprise cover underneath the paper dust jacket.

Finally, the solution to Aesop’s age-old question:
Who will bell the cats?

Mouse and his friend, Brown Bat, are determined to get out of the basement and into the banquet hall to join the fun and frolicking there. But escape won’t be easy with the cats blocking their efforts . . .

It will take many attempts and a surprising solution for Mouse and Bat to succeed.

Cynthia von Buhler’s enchanted upstairs/downstairs world shows readers the rewards of determination, bravery, and creativity—and reminds them of the uncomplicated power of kindness.

View the rooms by clicking the links below:

The Castle Exterior
The Basement
The Powder Room
The Library
The Ballroom
The Dining Room
The Bedroom
The Kitchen
The Aesop Room
The Characters

The Castle Exterior

Below is the image that was the runner-up for the cover (it came in second place in my online poll). The water is Saran Wrap laid on top of dark blue paper. I made the grass and trees out of real moss. The mouse oar is a popsicle stick from a Fudgecicle that I ate -- yum! The sky was hand-painted with gouache on canvas. Once again, both of the candles and flames are real. The door knockers are drawer pulls. Thanks to my father, the drawbridge really works!
Click on the images to enlarge them.

Here's the final version of the image. I preferred this lilac-colored version of the castle. I put sheets of colored gels over the lights while photographing to tint the overall images. We used this page inside the book instead of on the cover.Test Shot 2. This shot wasn't used in the book. We felt that it was to busy.Detail.
The enormous gouache sky painting that was used for my last book was also used as the sky for this book.Rough collage sketch:Sketch.
Here I am painting the plaster.This is what the wood frame looked like after I covered it in Plaster of Paris.
I added plaster by hand. I wore a mask because the plaster dust isn't healthy to breathe. Like my Pac Man shirt?
This is what my father gave me to work with. The drawbridge works.This is the wood frame before my father cut the windows out.
Bodiam Castle, The Castle That Inspired Me

Stunning, isn't it?

I adore castles. I own a castle-esque house on Staten Island, in New York City. It also inspired me, but there are no mice that live there. All of the mice live with me at my house in Connecticut where my studio is. Fort Hill Castle on Staten Island:Inspiration. This is cell phone picture of one of the many mice that my cats caught. I rescued it, gave it a hunk of cheese, and placed him outside.

The Castle Courtyard

This is the final version of the full title and dedication page. I made the stone floor with Plaster of Paris. I troweled it on, and as it dried I carved the stone shapes. Afterwards, I painted it with gouache. I enclosed the stone floor with real, little pebbles. The water in the fountain is saran wrap. It looks real, doesn't it? The flowers are silk, but the grass and trees are real moss from my garden. The candles in the chandeliers are real. The peacocks are made from real peacock feathers. Inside, you can see the ballroom floor. The gold-leaf chairs were given to me by my neighbors, Charlotte and Ulrik Poulsen. Ulrich brought the chairs from China, and generously gave them to me for my sets. They were dark wood and I painted them gold. I bought the chandeliers on eBay. Can you find the bird's nest and eggs? How about the red cardinal? Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.
Click on the images to enlarge them.
Test Shot 2.


Test Shot 1.

This is what the wood frame my father built for the castle garden looked like when he gave it to me.
Sketch. This was the rough computer sketch I gave my father so he could make the wood frame.Details:

View the rooms by clicking the links below:

The Castle Exterior
The Basement
The Powder Room
The Library
The Ballroom
The Dining Room
The Bedroom
The Kitchen
The Aesop Room
The Characters

The Basement

The Book Cover & Jacket


Here's the final version of the cover image. In it, the mouse is reading a scrap from the original Aesop story upon which my book is based. You can find the full Aesop story inside my book. This is a book within a book. The mouse's candle is real.
Click on the images to enlarge them.

This was my rough collage sketch. It looks blurry because it was created by taking various pages and piecing them together.

I had a brainstorm in the middle of the night. I decided that, with a mouse hole, I could show a cat AND the mouse. So this image became the half-title page inside the book instead of the cover. (Thanks to all of you who voted in this blog cover poll. I hope that you like the new, slightly different cover with the mouse hole.)
This is the final back cover. I bought some of the stamps on eBay, and the others were given to me by the French members of my family. Mouse scratched a few Aesop quotations on his basement wall that were pertinent to his plight:
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Slow but steady wins the race.
Persuasion is often more effectual than force.

This is the complete cover design with the front and back flaps. The magenta lines are crop and fold marks for printing and won't show up on the actual book.
This is a visual surprise, with all the cats printed across the front and back of the hardcover. This image is underneath the dust jacket with the mouse-hole wall printed on it, and it's what you would see if you removed the dust jacket. They are all together because cats usually hunt in groups. This is to emphasize the inside/outside and upstairs/downstairs aspect of the book. These cats were painted individually and cut out, but I made them much larger than the cutout characters inside the book.
Mouse Taking A Shower

Click on the images to enlarge them.

I wanted this scene to look cold so it would provide contrast to the warm, cozy feeling of The Powder Room which appears above it on the page. I added some snow and a couple of icicles. The water is saran wrap. The snow is glitter. The icicles are a clear glue. This scene takes place in the Winter. Brrrrrr!Sketch.

Test Shot 3. Small version:
Test Shot 3. Larger scroll around version:
Test Shot 2. Even older mouse shower photo.
Test Shot 1. The original mouse (much less cute), about to take a shower.
Mouse Reading

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Mouse is reading scraps from the French newspaper Le Monde. Le Monde means "The World" in French. This scene takes place in the Fall, so I added colored leaves on the floor and steps.Rough collage sketch: Library layout without the floorboards showing between the floors. See The Library for more information about this room.
Mouse Eating Crumbs Scene

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Mouse is waiting for crumbs to fall through the floor cracks. Poor Mouse! The items on his wall are real French stamps, pictures, and fruit-crate labels. The donkey on the circular paper is a French optical toy. If you pull the strings taut, the paper spins and you see the optical illusion of a person sitting on the donkey's back. His table is a spool of thread. As before, the real candle is lit with a real flame.
Test Shot 1. Sketch.
Mouse Armor Scene

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Here's the final image:
Rough collage sketch:
Adieu Scene

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In the final image, I made Bat brighter, added a flower behind her ear, and made the princess clearer.
Test Shot 3.Test Shot 2.
Test Shot 1. The princes is too blurry.
Heading Upstairs Scene

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Mouse and Brown Bat go upstairs to give a fashion show. I added a bit of shadow to make it look more 3-D. I also added a bit more blue to the walls. The bells are real.Test Shot.Rough collage sketch.
Revelation Scene

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Here's the final image:
Smelly Sock Scene

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Here are the mouse and bat in the smelly sock scene. Mouse is sleeping in a matchbox. His blanket is a old, ripped, smelly sock. He has a clothespin on his nose.
Test Shot 2
Test shot 1. This shows the sock before I made it "smelly."
Rough collage sketch:
Mouse Bedroom Scene

Click on the images to enlarge them.

In the final image, I added a clothespin to the Mouse's nose; it brings more attention to the smelly sock.
Test Shot 4. I think that the light coming through the floorboards really works well. This isn't the final crop. For this shot, I decided to blur the background and focus on the mouse.
Test Shot 3. The matchbox is now French! I also bought a child's sock and mucked it up for his smelly blanket. It still needs more muck.
Test Shot 2.
Test Shot 1. This isn't the final sock. I'm making a nice ripped, dirty, smelly-looking one. Also, I'm putting a french label on the matchbox.
Rough collage sketch:
Dog Costume Scene

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Here's the final image:
Rough collage sketch:
Fashion Show Idea Scene

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Here's the final image:

Mouse Collecting Gems Scene

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Here's the final image. The bowl he is using to collect the gems is half of a walnut shell. This will be beneath the ballroom scene. For more on the ballroom, go to "The Ballroom" page.


Deleted Page

This was going to be the title page, but we changed our minds.:
Mouse Basement After I Added Plaster Walls

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I mixed up dry Plaster of Paris and then, using a trowel, I smoothed it onto the wall like frosting. As it dried I scratched lines into it with an Xacto blade. When it dried, I painted it with gouache, dabbing up some paint with a paper towel to give it a mottled look. The pipes are from a hardware store. I painted them with a special "rusting" paint. I shot light down through the floorboards to get the wonderful "natural" lighting.


Mouse Basement As Built By My Father

Click on the images to enlarge them.

Here's the Mouse Basement wood frame. I gave my father sketches of how I wanted the wooden frames for the rooms to look. This is what the wood frame looked like before I got my hands on it. I asked my father to build it with slats in the ceiling so I could use light to get that light-creeping-through-the-cracks effect.

Details

Mouse's work table and tools.
The wine labels, food labels, etc., are the posters on Mouse's wall.The Matchbox Bed.

View the rooms by clicking the links below:

The Castle Exterior
The Basement
The Powder Room
The Library
The Ballroom
The Dining Room
The Bedroom
The Kitchen
The Aesop Room
The Characters