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AAG Members Collaborate on Children’s Book

When a former student (Leigh Ann Buckner) asked Anderson Artists Guild member Mary McAlister to illustrate the children’s book she was writing, McAlister said yes. Even though the book was about two cats who lived on a farm full of animals, McAlister didn’t hesitate. Yet she wondered if she could do it. “I’d never drawn a cat before,” she said. “I’d never drawn animals.”

A watercolor painter, she has created plenty of landscapes full of trees and flowers. But animals required a new skill. She studied the cats in ads for cat food, as well as photos of the author’s own cats, two brindles. She examined other children’s books and watched cat videos on YouTube. “I did several sketches, then some paintings, and Leigh Ann liked them,” said McAlister.

Next, she was painting all kinds of creatures, from dogs, squirrels and peacocks to frogs, geese, and lightning bugs. All of this came fairly easily until she had to show the cats talking to each other. “I had to come up with different postures for them,” she said.

The story, titled Buttons and Zippers, is about two cats who live on a farm. One cat, who is mean, doesn’t understand why the other animals avoid him. So the other cat, who’s nice, helps the mean cat change the way he treats others.

Fellow AAG member Craig Johnson digitized the text and artwork and laid out the book, which is being self-published with hopes of later being picked up by a children’s book publisher. Early presales have been strong, and book signings will be held at several schools, at the Anderson YMCA, at McDowell’s Emporium, and elsewhere.

For McAlister, this experience might signal a new chapter in her life. “I’ve already had three friends ask about illustrating their books,” she said. “I may be starting a new career.”

For more information about Buttons and Zippers, contact McAlister at


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