In 1923, several years after his eldest son Pierre drowned and his young son Renaud died following an appendectomy, Chauveau began writing children’s stories. He was deeply affected by these tragedies and did not paint an artificially rosy picture of harsh realities: his heroes die, and drowned people are omnipresent in his drawings for adults.
A contemporary of Nobel Prize winners Rudyard Kipling and Selma Lagerlöf, Chauveau became part of this movement of children’s writers. Describing himself as a “little old child” in his autobiographical manuscript The Dreaming Child, he developed a close complicity with his young readers and gave them an authentic and humorous voice.
His children’s stories often took the form of fables featuring animals. They were first published in 1923 with illustrations by Pierre Bonnard. In 1929, Chauveau finally reprinted the stories with his own illustrations. They were admired by André Gide and his companion Maria Van Rysselberghe, and became a critical success.