Highgate School dad publishes first book - with help from his daughter

Highgate School dad Anthony Kessel and his daughter Leone have collaborated on his first book, The A

Highgate School dad Anthony Kessel and his daughter Leone have collaborated on his first book, The Amazing Adventures of Perch the Cat - Credit: Archant

A doctor used to writing studies on public health has penned his first children’s novel – inspired by the bedtime stories he used to tell his daughter.

But Highgate School pupil Leone Kessel, 12, has not only proved to be the inspiration for her father Anthony Kessel’s first novel, The Amazing Adventures of Perch the Cat – she has also provided every illustration from the front cover to the final page.

The book follows the adventures of a ginger cat who lives in Crouch End, like the Kessel family.

It is quite a departure from Prof Kessel’s previous works, which include titles like Air, the Environment and Public Health.

“About five years ago, I started telling Leone stories on a Friday night after dinner in her bedroom,” explained the 47-year-old.


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“Then one Friday I conjured up a cat called Perch and told her stories for weeks. It became a lovely part of our Friday night routine.”

He finally decided to write the book after re-telling one of the stories to his wife Elizabeth.

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It took a few years of editing and getting other people’s views on the stories before the book was ready to go to print.

But there was still one very important decision to be made – who would do the drawings?

“We came to the idea of Leone illustrating the book – she is a great drawer,” said Prof Kessel. “It became a lovely way for the two of us to make it a joint project.”

It surprised colleagues at Public Health England, where Prof Kessel works as director of public health strategy, and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where he teaches.

“They wonder how I could possibly have the time,” he said. “But it has been a hobby which I have become increasingly passionate about over a number of years.”

Another book is already in the pipeline and youngest son Ethan, nine, is keen to have the next dedicated to him.

A book launch party is due to take place at Pickled Pepper Books in Middle Lane, Crouch End, next month.

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