It all started with a boy.
Molly Young and Joana Avillez were each students in Providence, R.I., (Young at Brown and Avillez at RISD) and dated the same young man — a “handsome Colombian heartthrob,” as Young puts it — sequentially.
“So we were both very aware of the other one,” Young says with a smile.
Fast-forward six-plus years (during which time the two ditched the boy, though “we wish him all the best,” Avillez says dryly), and they were both living in New York City, running in overlapping social circles. At long last, Avillez and Brown properly met.
“That’s a very specific kind of a relationship with another woman, where you’re, like, aware of them and you’re intrigued by them but also intimidated by them,” Young says across the table toward Avillez over iced coffees at The Odeon.
“It’s a fun part of the story but it almost has nothing to do with it. Or everything, I don’t know,” Avillez says. “Maybe he had very good taste.”
Early on in their friendship the two learned they are both avid fans of the illustrator William Steig, and whether they knew it at the moment or not, the idea was born; on Tuesday they release their book “D C-T!,” a collection of cheeky illustrated puzzles inspired by Steig’s book “CDB!”
The book, published by Penguin, is a love letter to New York City (the title, “D C-T!” is speak for “the city”). Avillez, a fashion illustrator whose work has appeared in just about every fashion and culture publication one can name (including WWD), is a New York native while Young, a freelance journalist with a similarly long list of clips, is from San Francisco. The two always knew New York would be the subject of their book.
“We needed to find a world where we could manage situations and where people would bring some knowledge to it, so when they figure out the codes — which hopefully they do — there’s a ‘eureka’ moment,” Avillez says.
“The things that we like about Steig, like his humor, his attention to detail, his looseness, those are things that we also love about New York City,” Young adds. “There are so many opportunities to find those little vignettes and interactions and to put them into drawings and words.”
Both were introduced to Steig when they were children by their fathers.
“It’s what sparked my love of words. I basically only saw the words and not the pictures,” Young says. “When I was little all the books I read with my dad were William Steig,” Avillez says. “We had every one. He’s my favorite illustrator.”
“What about it?” Young asks her.
“Because the drawings are so loose but so specific, and I wouldn’t know that when I was little, but if you look at the work from the Fifties they are very detailed,” Avillez responds. “He only started doing children’s books [later in his life]. By then, his line was so knowing and there is no trepidation. They’re delighting and beautiful and all the kids are kids of mischief.”
Young initially e-mailed Avillez with the suggestion they do a ‘zine combining their talents and love for Steig, but after a dinner meeting at Café Loup, the concept of a book took over (impressive, considering the fact Young got food poisoning from the meal).
The pages are filled with favorite moments of New York and little personal gems as well; Young’s favorite pair of Céline shoes made their way into one of Avillez’s illustrations, for one.
“They’re cartoons, really, but it was about taking it another step where they’re really funny and satisfying,” Avillez says.
“It’s a little narrative in each picture,” Young adds.
The book, Avillez says, is not unlike Eloise (another favorite) in its ageless appeal. As Young puts it, theirs is for those who “enjoy untangling mysteries, and humor and aesthetic delights.”
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