Wishes of moments of happiness, health, creativity and discovery
Souhaits de petits moments de bonheur, santé, créativité et découvertes…
Wishes of moments of happiness, health, creativity and discovery
Souhaits de petits moments de bonheur, santé, créativité et découvertes…
The idea, the seed, the spark that led me to write and illustrate the story of Mustafa began when I traveled to Croatia and Serbia a couple years ago. The alarming and tragic news of refugee families fleeing their countries, sailing unsafely across the sea, walking for days and weeks through fields, forests, over barbed wire fences and walls to get to a place where they could find a haven, had been in all the media for months.
When I arrived in Belgrade, a large park in the center was filled with families in makeshift shelters waiting to continue on the next leg of their journey. What struck me were the children running around, playing, laughing, seemingly oblivious to the situation, absorbed in their moments of play and flights of imagination, as are children all over the world. I was astonished at their resilience.
Since the act of writing for me is, in part, a way of finding answers to my questions, I wondered if these children carried memories of danger, violence and sadness within them. Were they afraid or hopeful of what would happen next? This started me on the journey of imagining how a child would see and understand his new country...
Mustafa discovers his new world bit by bit, noticing the tiniest details that are different or similar to the country he has come from. The moon in the night sky, the landscape, the weather, the color of the trees, the insects, the flowers, the music...
He is curious and aware, but still, he feels invisible and mute in this world where people speak a language that he cannot understand. How will he create a bond with his new environment? When finally Mustafa conquers his shyness and vulnerability, he meets a friend, with whom he shares smiles and laughter... he is on the road to becoming visible...
I realized, as I wrote Mustafa's story, that his experience will also be recognized by children who arrive in new neighborhoods, new schools or new families. I was five years old when my family moved to a province where English was spoken. I spoke only French and I clearly remember my first day in kindergarden. I was terrified I could not understand a single word. I spent the day hiding under a table. Hopefully, Mustafa's story will help children and adults become aware that the experience of being invisible, different or lonely is a part of many a childhood.
L'idée d'écrire et illustrer l'histoire de Mustafa m'est venue lors d'un voyage dans les Balkans il y a quelques années. Les nouvelles étaient remplies des histoires tragiques des familles de réfugiés qui fuyaient leur pays dans des embarcations fragiles ou à pied, à travers champs et forêts, franchissant fils barbelés et murs pour trouver un refuge et la paix. Lorsque je suis arrivée à Belgrade, un grand parc au centre de la ville était rempli de familles de réfugiés qui attendaient sous des abris de fortune de connaître la prochaine étape de leur voyage. Ce qui m'a surpris, c'était de voir les enfants qui couraient, riaient, jouaient, inconscients, absorbés par le moment présent et leur imagination ludique comme tous les enfants du monde. Étonnée, je découvrais leur résilience.
Puisque l'écriture est pour moi un cheminement pour trouver des réponses à mes questions, je me suis demandée si ces enfants portaient en eux les souvenirs du danger, de la violence et de la tristesse. Avaient-ils peur de l'avenir? Avaient-ils un peu d'espoir? Sauraient-ils se retrouver dans un pays inconnu et étranger? J'ai donc écrit Mustafa.
Mustafa découvre son nouveau pays petit à petit. La lune, les paysages, le saisons, la couleur des arbres, les fleurs et les insectes et la musique lui rappellent parfois l'ancien pays ou, au contraire, l'émerveillent par leur nouveauté et étrangeté. Malgré tout, il se sent invisible et muet dans ce monde où les gens parlent une langue qu'il ne comprend pas. Comment pourra-t-il créer un lien dans son nouvel environnement? Comment pourra-t-il franchir la frontière de l'invisibilité?
En écrivant l'histoire de Mustafa, j'ai réalisé aussi que les enfants qui arrivent dans des nouveaux quartiers, des nouvelles écoles ou des nouvelles familles, s'identifieront facilement à l'expérience de Mustafa. J'ai espoir que l'histoire de Mustafa inspirera les enfants autant que les adultes à réaliser que I'expérience d'être invisible, différent et seul fait souvent partie de l'enfance.
What planet does my new book Short Stories For Little Monsters come from? The planet of my childhood, of course, as well as the outer-space of my adolescence! But also from the hours of joy spent reading and sharing my favorite comic strips or bandes dessinées with my two young boys as they fell over laughing at the hilarious adventures and mishaps of Spirou, The Shtroumps, Lucky Luke, Le génie des Alpages, Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Philémon and Le concombre masqué etc.
I wrote these stories to tickle the funnybone of my ticklish readers, to recapture that sense of wonder and absurdity that inhabits children's minds, the curiosity and boundless imagination that easily crosses the border between reality and fantasy.
Some of these stories are true, like Zombie-Mom, where a mother can see through ceilings all the mischief her children are getting into. Guess who the mother is ?
Other stories came to me as I walked through forests, eavesdropping on trees as in What do Trees Talk About?
I also eavesdropped on my kids when they started bossing worms around as in the story called Worms.
Nineteen short stories about invisible boys, arrogant snails, the secret life of rabbits and many more. Stories full of laughter, jokes and truth, sometimes stranger than fiction.
De quelle planète étrange viennent mes Petits Monstres?
La planète de mon enfance, bien sûr, mais également de la planète encore plus étrange de mon adolescence. Ajoutez à cela les heures de bonheur à relire et partager les bandes dessinées de mon enfance et de celle de mes deux petits garçons, qui se tordaient de rire, chatouillés par les blagues, les mésaventures et les jeux de mots des Shtroumps, Astérix, Spirou, Le Génie des Alpages, Philémon, Lucky Luke, Le Concombre Masqué et j'en passe...J'ai écrit ses histoires avec l'espoir de replonger avec mes petits lecteurs dans ce monde absurde et fantaisiste sur la frontière entre le réel et l'imaginaire qu'ils franchissent allègrement.
Certaines de ces histoires sont vraies comme Les mensonges de ma mère (où je joue un rôle important).
D'autres mettent en scène mes enfants: Saute!
Et d'autres m'ont été racontées ou peut-être les ai-je rêvées: Les Grrrrrands Vents
Dix-neuf histoires courtes remplies de rires, de clins d'oeil complices et de petites vérités.
WHY, WHEN, WHERE, WHAT TO READ TO YOUR CHILD?
Reading with or to a child is more than sharing stories. It is a sharing of ideas and emotions. It provokes questions and reflections. It opens a dialogue between the adult reader and the child. Reading permits an exploration of imaginary worlds, of abstract thought, of art and colors and shapes. Reading with or to a child should go beyond the experience of learning to read. Reading should be a pleasure, a moment of joy, an island to explore. I am often asked when, why, where, how and what should I read to my child?
When should I start reading books to my child?
It's never too early! You can start before your child is born.
You can read to book-chewing, thumb-sucking, fidgety babies.
You can read to two toddlers (and one cat) or more, at a time.
Don't stop reading to your child when your child has learned to read. Let him read to you. Or take turns.
Read books with your child as long as you both enjoy it.
What should I read to my child?
There are books for everyone: budding scientists, clowns, cowboys, princesses, explorers, astronauts, baseball players, ballerinas, pirates and artists.
Find the right one. The book that will interest, captivate and inspire your child.
Offer your child a wide variety of books. Expand his mind.
After all you wouldn't serve your child potatoes for dinner every single day. Or would you?
Bring your child to the library and let her choose her own books.
Read paper books to your child. They are lovely objects that you can feel, touch, smell and share...
Don't worry, your child will be interacting for the rest of his life with screens, technological devices and other as-of-yet uninvented modes of communication. More than you could ever imagine.
WHERE and WHEN?
Make a habit of reading every day to your child. Reading at bedtime is great, but why not read at other times or in different places? Read on the bus, in a dentist's waiting room, after lunch. Read outside, with a flashlight, in a tree, etc.
How should I read to my child? What is the best way to read to my child?
There is no best way, but...
…you could make characters come alive by giving them voices: The monster GRRRRRROWLED! (Use a loud, deep, grrrrowling voice).
The ant whispered: "My name is Anton..." (Use a tiny, whispery ant voice).
The duck quacked. (Use a quacking nasal voice.) And so on and so forth.
…Or, you could "read" the illustrations: Look for details in the art. Empower your child by letting him point out the details that he has spotted. Discuss the art: What materials did the artist use? What is the body language of the characters? What does it mean?
If your child interrupts you with a question or a comment, don't hesitate to stop reading to answer the question. If you don't know the answer, ask your child: What do you think?
My child doesn't like reading. What should I do to encourage him to read?
Be a role model. Read books in front of your child. Talk about the story you are reading.
Try to find books about subjects that will interest your child: She likes fire engines? He likes drawing monsters or pirate ships? She likes worms? After all, don't you choose your books according to your interests?
Librarians and good independent booksellers are a great help when you don't know where to start looking.
My child just reads comic books or picture books, how can I get him to read novels or more serious books?
If your child only reads comic books, show your interest. Read them with him. Discuss them. Then propose graphic novels. Or first novels with a lot of illustrations. There is no rush to graduate to 'serious' novels.
Why should I read to my child? He will learn to read in school anyway.
You are right. There is a good chance that your child will learn to read in school. But don't you think it is a parent's responsibility to encourage their child to read with delight and curiosity?
It is the best, most enduring and life-changing gift that you can give to your child.
Wishes for a year of peace, hope and quiet moments. A year of inspiring stories, wonderful art and many great books.
Every month or so, I receive a batch of letters and drawings from a class that has been motivated, inspired and engaged by a teacher who makes a difference in their student's lives.
Teachers who are enthusiastic and creative.
Teachers who don't just read a book to a class but who expand and enrich the reading experience by encouraging children to get involved in the story, to change it, to pursue it, to compare it to their own experiences.
Teachers who understand the value of "reading" the art in a book, of understanding how the images were created, what materials were used.
Teachers who know that if they can get their students engaged in a book, captivated by a story, immersed in the illustrations, they are not only teaching them to read but they are teaching them to be curious, open-minded, observant and above all, to love reading!
Two years in a row, K1 teacher Teresa Kellerman from Michigan, has sent me stories and drawings and suggestions from her students inspired by her incredibly imaginative projects based on Any Questions? She wrote:
Dear Ms. Gay,
I wanted to let you know how much you inspired my students as authors with your book Any Questions?. A fellow first grade teacher discovered the book at the local library and knew that I would love it, so she brought it to me. I immediately fell in love as my mind began swimming with lessons and ideas while my heart raced with the excitement that paralleled a child with a new toy! I couldn't wait to begin sharing the book with my students.Each and every child was captivated by your book as we studied it in sections throughout the week, reading only a portion a day and following up with associated activities from painting the shy giant to guest authoring the"suddenly" section, to editing and sharing. Our final activity for the week was for each student to compose a letter to you offering his/her idea for your next book. The room was buzzed with the murmer of letter writers discussing their ideas with each other. We hope you feel the love that each pencil stroke brings from our classroom to you.
Thank you for inspiring young minds,
Teresa Kellerman and 1K
Mrs. Killam, Grade three/four teacher from Calgary, sent me drawings and stories and many, many suggestions from her students. I could probably write a whole shelf full of books from her students suggestions. But I hope they will eventually write these stories. Mrs. Killam wrote:
I hope our letters find you well. We have been exploring your books as an author study for the past 2 months. Your books have been accessible and have ignited the imaginations of 24 grade 3 and 4 students.
Our school is located in the inner city of Calgary. Nearly all students are new Canadians and are learning English for the first time. 16 Countries and 14 languages are represented in my class this year. Many students have come to Canada as refugees, and have experienced unbelievable tragedy and hardships beyond my imagination. Along with these challenges, many students have difficult home lives. With that being said, your books help to bring students together and help us to forget our differences. The students are always enamored by your stories. Thank you for making them.
You have moved this class and changed their expectations of a “good book.” They loved the imagery of “Moonbeam on a Cat’s Ear.” Their collective hearts fell when Mademoiselle Moon lost her job. They giggled and hooted along endlessly with Stella and Sam. They pondered about where the desert island could be that this boy and wolf were floating along on. And, of course, they ALL wanted to dig a hole bigger than Roslyn and make their way to the penguins. Next, we will be looking at “Any Questions?” and writing our own stories.
Thanks again for doing what you do. Please enjoy our letters! They are filled with questions, book suggestions for your next book, sketches, and lots of love.
Until next year,
When I read letters like these and receive enthusiastic letters and drawings from children, I feel hopeful as a creator as well as in the future of our children. I feel very thankful and heartened to know that there are many teachers out there really making a real difference in children's lives.
Thank you to all the teachers who, day in and day out, inspire our children.
This question was put to me by a young artist visibly mystified as to how one decides to put one colour next to another. Or how one decides to paint a sky blue, or yellow or bright pink. Do all colours come from nature ? And must they reproduce nature faithfully?
A Short Travelogue of Colours...
I think that a lot of my exploration of colours and light stems from my travels. When I travel I am much more aware of colours that are not familiar to me either because of their combinations or juxtapositions or because of how the light of the country I am travelling in transforms them. You could say that this is one of the main reasons I travel, to sharpen and refresh my sense of wonder at the light, colours, architecture, flora, and fauna. I collect these impressions and use them often as visual nourishment in my art.
When I travel I keep a journal, mostly written in pencil with small sketches. In it, I note the places, events, adventures, and I sketch bits of architecture, tiles, details, birds, flowers. Sometimes, I'll tape leaves, feathers or bits of paper into the journal. I will write the colours down if I don't have any colours or a camera with me.
Leaves, feather and annotated bird sketches from the South of France
My second journal is photographic.
I have just come back from a writing retreat in Mexico and my photographic journal is absolutely bursting with light and colours. In towns like Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and Cholula, for example, my senses were assaulted by a riot of colours. Look at this impossibly lemon-yellow church in Cholula:
Or the palette of colours in the city of Guanajuato:
And the contrasting yet harmonious juxtapositions of colours in San Miguel de Allende:
A Colour Collection
So, in short, I would suggest to my young artist friend to start a colour collection.
Colours of every hue, shade, and value. Brilliant reds, delicate pinks, blood oranges, fluorescent greens, jacaranda purples, turquoise blues, pearly whites...
And then experiment...
I spent a lovely afternoon talking about ¿Alguna Pregunta? with schoolchildren at the Sala Literaria of the Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende. We exchanged stories, ideas and questions in Spanish and English. That day, it snowed in the mountains above San Miguel. A rare occurrence. It was my first Mexican snow day! https://www.facebook.com/salaliterariasma/
Comment choisir ses couleurs ?
C'est la question que m'a posée un jeune artiste curieux qui se demandait comment on prenait la décision d'utiliser telle couleur plutôt qu'une autre. Doit-on peindre un ciel bleu, jaune ou gris? Est-ce que toutes les couleurs viennent de la nature? Doit-on les reproduire fidèlement? Comment faire le plein de couleurs inusitées, inspirantes et évocatrices?
Un guide de voyage tout en couleurs...
Ce qui m'inspire le plus, c'est de me retrouver dans un environnement nouveau, où les paysages, la lumière et les couleurs m'émerveillent par leurs combinaisons osées, éclatantes et inconnues. Où l'architecture est différente, où la faune et la flore me surprennent. C'est pour toutes ces raisons que je voyage beaucoup: je m'abreuve visuellement, c'est un ressourcement et un retour à la vision du monde tel que je le percevais quand j'étais toute petite. Donc, je renouvelle ma palette de couleurs.
Journal de voyage
Lorsque je voyage, je tiens un journal dans un petit carnet qui ne me quitte jamais. Je note mes impressions, mes idées et mes aventures au crayon et j'y ajoute de petites esquisses:
Je tiens un deuxième journal, celui-là, en photos.
Je reviens tout juste d'une retraite d'écriture au Mexique et mon journal photo est une explosion de couleurs. Dans les villes de Cholula, Guanajuato ou San Miguel de Allende, les couleurs et la lumière me font rêver.
Ci-dessus: le jaune citron invraisemblable d'une église de Cholula, la palette de couleurs extravagantes de Guanajuato, et les contrastes et juxtapositions harmonieuses de San Miguel de Allende.
Une collection de couleurs
Donc je suggérerais à ce jeune artiste de commencer sa propre collection de couleurs.
Des couleurs en pagaille! Rouge coquelicot, orange feu, jaune citron ou safran,vert pistache, bleu outremer, gris perle...
Et ensuite, il faut explorer toutes les possibilités.
Un autre plaisir du voyage: J'ai passé un après-midi joyeuxen compagnie d'une quarantaine d'écoliers mexicains à la Sala Literaria de las Bellas Artes à San Miguel de Allende. Je leur ai lu mon livre ¿Alguna Pregunta? (Un million de questions!) et, bien sûr, j'ai répondu à leurs questions, en español!
Wishing you all a peaceful, luminous and creative New Year, with moments of contemplation, silence and wonder. Hoping you will discover great books to read and share with family and friends.
Bonne Année 2016!
Je vous souhaite une nouvelle année remplie de paix, de lumière et de créativité avec des moments de silence, de contemplation et d'émerveillement. Je vous souhaite d'être étonnés et inspirés et de découvrir des livres passionnants à partager avec vos enfants et vos amis.
Fall is the season of book events and award announcements. I was thrilled to learn that I was a finalist for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for my book Any Questions?
CBC Arts sent filmmakers to explore my studio from top to bottom, filming sketches and paint brushes, watercolour palettes and ink bottles, unfinished drawings and bits of coloured paper, my usual "artistic" mess. I was interviewed while drawing, while reading, while looking out the window. What a change from working alone in my studio!
Every year, CBC Books partners with the TD Book Awards and the CCBC to create Book Clubs in cities across Canada.The finalists are invited to meet with kids who have read and discussed their books in class. I was invited to the Edmonton Book Club where I visited the Westglen Elementary School. There the grade 2 and grade 6 paired off and did buddy-readings. Chris de la Torre of Daybreak Alberta was there to interview me as well as talk with the kids, who after reading the book together had created all sorts of fantastic art.
I was also invited to the Halifax Book Club where I had the pleasure of reading in a bathtub in a classroom at Ste Catherine's School (luckily the bathtub was filled with big purple cushions!). This is the teacher's way to encourage children to read anywhere and everywhere. Then I visited Crichton Park School in Dartmouth where the children who had each received a copy of Any Questions? had millions of questions for me, of course.
Finally, on Wednesday night at the wonderful TD Gala I was thrilled and totally surprised to win the CBC Fan Choice Award, the result of an online poll in which young readers voted for their favourite TD Canadian Children's Literature Award finalists. Seven-year-old voter Nora Vukadinovic of Calgary won a trip to Toronto to see me accept the award and meet me. We were both speechless. Although, after the presentation, Nora chatted with me about her favourite books.
I will be travelling next week to Paris to attend Le Salon du livre jeunesse de Montreuil, an immense book fair which invites authors, illustrators, teachers, parents and children to celebrate the joy of reading. The tragic events of last week in Paris which I have no words to describe, have of course colored this event in shades of darkness. I was very moved to read the letter which the organizers have sent to everyone. Here is the translation of an extract:
"(...) Culture in general and children's literature in particular are treasures that help illuminate the world, giving our young people a place to stand and grow. Children's literature tells stories that help the young of all ages understand each other, and learn about one another, face the fears that concern them, and form answers to the many questions of their lives. But also, and especially, because these books help them dream, and discover words and language, and stimulate their imagination, they introduce young people to the world in as free a way as possible, making them citizens of our planet.
Because the right to culture and freedom of expression is not negotiable, because our children have the right to imagine and dream, despite recent events we have chosen to hold the Salon du livre et de la presse jeunesse -- the book fair for young readers -- that will take place from December 2 to 7, 2015, in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris.(...)"
I will be signing books all week as well as visiting schools in Paris and its suburbs.
Recently, the Lester B. Pearson School Board of Montreal decided to eliminate the jobs of all school librarians in their employ because of governement budget cuts. I was asked to give a statement about this at a recent board meeting:
We send our children to school to learn to read, to write, to expand their minds, to give them a chance to lead successful happy lives. A primary school is a small milieu where for the first time, young children are exposed to the vast world outside of their homes.
It is a place where they will learn skills that, for the most part, they will use throughout their lives. So how can a school open the doors wide enough to introduce children to original thoughts, other lives, different cultures and knowledge?
As an author and illustrator of over sixty children's books over the last thirty years, I have had the pleasure of traveling all across Canada, from Vancouver to St, John's, and from Inuvik to Chissasibi, as well as crisscrossing the United States, giving workshops, presentations and readings to thousands of students in librairies and schools : huge inner-city schools, rural schools, remote island schools, first nation schools, alternative schools, private and public schools.
What has struck me in the hundreds of schools I have visited is the influence that a school library and a school librarian have on the children I meet. I can tell as soon as I start interacting with them that the children are more engaged, more articulate, they ask questions, their minds race to make connections. They share something precious: a love of reading, a curiosity, an open mind and a boundless imagination. And the reason is that they have access to a wide collection of books, classics and contemporary, and they have someone who can suggest, lead, persuade and inspire them to expand their minds with books.
That is the role of the school librarian.
In opposition to this, the schools that I have visited where school libraries are inexistant or very poor, where books are outdated and in sad physical shape, where the library is used as a place to put unruly students, and run by well-meaning volunteer parents or overworked teachers. In these schools, I meet children who know how to read, but since they are not in contact with a variety of books about an infinity of subjects that would expand their minds, they are more passive and less engaged. Some lucky and passionate readers in these schools might have a chance of becoming life-long readers if books are read in their homes, or if they have access to a public library. But the others, the children from low-income and less educated families, the reluctant readers, the slow readers, the bored readers, the new immigrants to our country will be functionally literate, but reading will not be an integral and important part of their lives. And a lot of doors will remain closed to them.
That is why I find it so shocking that we would not support the important role of the school librarian, as well as a school library in every single school. That, as a society, we would not demand that our young children be offered a rich choice of reading materials that will enlighten their choices, instill a sense of belonging to a community, accept difference and expand their vision of the world.
This is what school librarians bring to a school:
They have the up-to-date knowledge of what books will interest, stimulate and persuade children to expand their reading habits.
They make a choice of which books to buy on an often reduced budget. They prepare and catalogue the books.
They keep a modern, well stocked, well organized library where they suggest and recommend books that will ignite and inspire young scientists, romantics, adventurers, athletes, artists, science-fiction fans, drama queens, budding computer experts and daydreamers.
They give enthusiastic readings to classes that visit the library. Have you ever seen a school librarian reading a book to a class? It’s pretty awesome. Stories come alive. Strange voices ring out. Kids are mesmerized.
School librarians organize book clubs, book weeks, book fairs and reading marathons, creating an excitement and a buzz about reading and books.
School librarians organize and coordinate author visits, meeting with students to read, study and discuss the author's books ahead of the reading.
School librarians help, advise and collaborate with teachers as well as students with their research projects, directing them to books, materials and websites where the best information can be found.
Above all, school librarians are passionate about their goal, which is to get all children hooked on reading.
School librarians are irreplaceable and essential to a modern-day school.
— Marie-Louise Gay