Designer and illustrator Angela Keoghan was having a cup of coffee and idly sketching as she sipped when a character suddenly appeared on the page she was doodling on; he was a near fully-formed dapper cat detective whom she named Inspector Brunswick.

Now Inspector Brunswick and his loyal assistant, Nelson, are the stars of Hamiltonian Keoghan's first children's book, written with her friend Chris Lam Sam who once starred in the musical supergroup for children, The Funky Monkeys.

Much to their delight, Inspector Brunswick - The Case of the Missing Eyebrow has become the first New Zealand children's book to be published by London-based Tate Publishing.

It's the publishing arm of the British art museums and galleries and specialises in visual art books; Keoghan's whimsical yet sophisticated illustrations made it a great fit.

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Tate Publishing liked the warmth and humour of Inspector Brunswick and Nelson, says spokeswoman Holly Tonks.

"The text is full of energy and excitement and this combines perfectly with Angela's stunning illustrations to make a fantastic picture book," says Tonks.

"In addition to this, we were drawn to the fact that Inspector Brunswick and the Case of the Missing Eyebrow takes place in an art gallery and teaches young readers to look closely at art as things might not always be what they seem."

Wanting to aim high with an eye on the international market, Keoghan and husband Jayden travelled to the London Book Fair two years ago with the preliminary drawings and plans for Inspector Brunswick with them.

"I think you have to think globally about what you do," says Keoghan, "because the market here is quite tiny. It means you have to speak loudly to the rest of the world for it to hear you."

As the name suggests, there's a mystery story at the heart of Inspector Brunswick's first adventure. Initially it wasn't going to be set in an art museum but, lunching with Tate Publishing representatives and looking around, set Keoghan on the trail of the present story.

Brunswick and Nelson have barely walked through the door of their local art museum when they realise that its prized portrait of the Admiral looks different. They're on the case to find out why, and how to remedy it.

"It's not a stereotypical art heist story but something kids would like, something that gets them looking closely."

Keoghan remains slightly stunned that the whole process has gone so smoothly. Now she and Lam Sam are working on two more books.

INSPECTOR BRUNSWICK AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING EYEBROW
By Angela Keoghan and Chris Lam Sam
(Tate Publishing, $30)