Read, share and enjoy books in 2015!
BONNE ET HEUREUSE ANNÉE!
Partagez le plaisir de lire en 2015!
Read, share and enjoy books in 2015!
BONNE ET HEUREUSE ANNÉE!
Partagez le plaisir de lire en 2015!
Où avais-je la tête ?!?
C'est ce qui m'est venu à l'esprit la semaine dernière lorsque j'ai assisté à une répétition du Jardin de Babel. Répétition qui m'a tour à tour ravie et étonnée.
Mais dans quel monde bizarre m'étais-je plongée, il y a quinze ans, lorsque j'ai écrit l'histoire de Babel, dans laquelle évoluaient ces personnages à la fois invraisemblables et loufoques … qui venaient certainement d'une autre planète ?
Probablement de la planète où je passe une partie de mon temps à échafauder des histoires et des images qui se retrouvent dans mes albums ou dans mes pièces de théâtre.
Le Théâtre de l'oeil a dépoussiéré les marionnettes, les décors et les costumes qui dormaient au fond des boîtes depuis 1999, afin de rejouer le Jardin de Babel. À ma grande surprise, la poussière est vite retombée, les couleurs sont aussi vives et fraîches qu'avant, les marionnettes ont toujours la bougeotte et le texte reste absurde, surréaliste et plein d'humour. La musique résonne, la magie opère et nous sommes entraînés malgré nous dans ces aventures incroyables.
Voici Babel, jeune jardinier naïf et curieux, qui se trouve confronté à un monde sens dessus dessous. Il y rencontre Marcelle, un mouton volant qui passe sa journée à brouter les nuages, et un roi nain à la barbe bleue au bord du désespoir, ou encore un poisson polisson qui raffole des jeux de mots et qui nage dans la mer sous le jardin de Babel. Il fait la connaissance d'une princesse ensorcelée et invisible et d'un lapin aux oreilles en feuillage de carotte… toute une galerie de personnages qui l'entraînent dans une aventure abracadabrante.
Où avais-je la tête lorsque j'ai créé ce monde fantaisiste ? Plongée dans l'écriture d'une histoire qui captiverait l'imaginaire des enfants, pour qui la frontière entre l'imaginaire et la réalité est mince comme un fil de soie, un monde dans lequel les enfants pourraient vivre des aventures rocambolesques et palpitantes. En regardant évoluer Babel et ses compagnons d'aventure, j'ai retrouvé la joie que j'ai éprouvée, il y a quinze ans, à écrire cette pièce.
Le jardin de Babel sera joué sur la scène de la Maison Théâtre à Montréal, du 24 septembre au 12 octobre 2014
What was I thinking? What planet was I living on?
This is what came to mind when I saw the rehearsal of Le jardin de Babel last week, where the puppets I created 15 years ago, evolved and waltzed, flew and swam in the absurd, surrealistic world where imagination is king.
The story of Babel, a young gardener, naive and curious, is confronted one morning by his familiar world turned upside down. There, amongst others, he meets Marcelle, a flying sheep wearing red high heels, grazing every cloud in sight. As well, he spies Signor Rapini, an italian fisherman, fishing in Babel's very own vegetable garden where he is also astounded to see a talking fish popping out between two carrots. Add to that a ferocious crab, an invisible princess in distress and a desperate blue-bearded dwarf king and you have the ingredients of a fantastic adventure where the conventions of logic fly out the window.
I am thrilled that the Théâtre de l'Oeil has decided to recreate my story of love and friendship and acceptance of the unconventional. And that the magic still resonates in Babel's Garden.
Le jardin de Babel will be played at the Maison Théâtre in Montreal, from September 24th to October 12th 2014.
Only in French.
At last! I am holding in my hands the fresh-off-the-press copy of my new book, Any Questions? It has been a long time since the seed of the idea for the story started growing, spreading its roots and stretching its branches to the sky.
Five years! A lot of things can happen in five years. Small trees grow, children start to read, grandparents grow old, people stay in one safe place or explore the world while others have no choice. Books are written, songs are sung and new species of animals are discovered.
Five years of exploring a story I wanted to tell. Following paths that got lost in a labyrinth of confusion or petered out into a dead-end. Five years of searching for the true voice or voices, of looking for colors, textures and rhythm, words, puns and rhymes. Creating a cast of characters, from polar bears to pterodactyls, elephants to snails, giants and beasts and dozens and dozens of children brimming with questions.
Five years spent gathering materials, ideas and inspiration to create a story about how to create a story, with words and pictures, based on the wide experience I have had in meeting with children, reading to and with them, drawing and creating stories in schools and librairies and especially answering their endless questions.
I wanted my story to be playful, magical and surprising. I didn't want it to be a book that tells children how to write, but rather to discover that there are many ways of writing and telling stories.
I wanted children (and adults) to realize that they will be moved to be more creative when they are facing the unknown in that uncertain, scary, exciting mindspace between the time you know you have a story to tell, but before you have found a way to tell it.
I hid details and clues throughout the book, sometimes in plain sight, other times more subtly. For example, take a look at the title page, an illustration of an artist's studio...
Pore over the tiny sketches that reveal some of the images that you will discover further on in the book (singing dinosaurs, trees running for their lives, caterpillars, snails, cat's pawprints). With these images you start to understand the creative process, random images that float into your creative radar and weave themselves into the story.
I also invited some of my favorite characters from my other books to take part in Any Questions? I gave them bit parts or cameo roles: Try to find Stella and Sam, Roslyn Rutabaga or Caramba and Portia.
I want this book to have many voices: the Narrator's voice, the Children and Animal voices, the Second Narrator's voice in the story-within-a-story. I also wanted to vary the visual design from black and white storyboards…
to full color spreads with another layer of action behind the scenes, to the visual creative process in The Shy Young Giant story where color and collage progressively invade the images.
I hope you enjoy reading, exploring and sharing Any Questions?
By the way, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. I might just have some answers...
I am so thrilled that the Mermaid Theatre Company is producing Stella, Queen of the Snow as a puppet play. Mermaid Theatre has incredible experience with creating shows based on well-loved children's books.
They use the complete text of the book and create the puppets, landscapes, and costumes based on the illustrations. It's like the characters of the stories walked and skipped and ran right out of the books onto the stage. I can't wait to see Stella romping through a snowy landscape, building a snowman, skating, throwing snowballs, or sliding down a hill, with Sam and Fred in tow.
I spent last Mother's Day in Studio Inverse with Dominique Bassel, the sound engineer, and Steven Naylor, who will create the music and narrative track, and Jim Morrow, the artistic director, recording the story in English and French. I am used to reading to children and hearing their delightful reactions punctuating the story as I read. This was a completely different experience. I read Stella, Queen of the Snow over and over again into a huge mike, wearing earphones, alone in a sound-proof room. But I am very happy that Stella and Sam will be speaking through my voice.
I am curious, though. How will they make the snow fall? What will the music sound like? We'll find out soon...
The show is premiering at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Halifax on June 21st and will be touring in Canada and the US in the fall and winter. Have a look at this great video of the Mermaid artists creating the puppets, as well as the sets, before going into rehearsals...
Every spring for the last ten years, a wonderful festival called Les petits bonheurs (Small Joys) has bloomed in Montreal, the city of never-ending festivals. I have illustrated the posters for this festival and it has been an interesting challenge to create an image year after year with the same general theme: a festival of arts and culture for the very youngest of our children while reinventing an image that by its style and content is instantly recognizable but different each time.
It is impossible to illustrate all the events, of course: music, song, dance, performances, puppet plays, theater, readings, workshops, all geared to children as young as 18 months to twelve years old. So each year what I have tried to do is create an illustration that evokes joy, excitement, humor and a sense of discovery. I want the ambiance to captivate and delight children and draw them into exploring the image in its tiniest details, while letting their imaginations soar.
I realized that to do this I had to go through the same creative process as when I write and illustrate my books – in other words, to tell a story, but one that evolves in one image instead of many.
If you look closely at the posters from 2008 to 2014, you will notice that from one child swinging on a trapeze trailing in her wake stars, musical notes and a flying rabbit, I multiplied the number of children each year as if I was illustrating the “story” of the festival and its success, while adding new whimsical details as well as repeating the familiar icons that conveyed the events of past years.
It was as if I was adding a chapter each year to the “story” of Les petits bonheurs. At one point, the festival team, that had fallen in love with the little girl in the red dress from the first poster, asked if I could bring her back. So she reappeared in the third poster and if you look closely you will find her popping up here and there.
The tiny characters I created have traveled by boat on mermaid-inhabited seas, paraded a pink elephant around cardboard castles, opened exploding surprise boxes, formed human pyramids and flown through a five-mooned sky where cats travel in teacups alongside schools of fish.
This year I was inspired by our long awaited spring and created the Garden of Small Joys where each child, clown, acrobat or cat performs inside a blooming flower.
Depuis plusieurs années, j’illustre les affiches du Festival des petits bonheurs, un festival des arts et de la culture pour les tout-petits qui a lieu dans le quartier Hochelaga Maisonneuve à Montréal.
C’est tout un défi de créer année après année une image qui annonce le même évènement tout en se renouvellant et en respectant le thème. Impossible, évidemment, d’illustrer tous les évènements qui se produisent durant ce festival: music, danse, performance, magie, théâtre de marionnettes, lectures et ateliers autant pour les enfants de 18 mois que ceux de 11-12 ans. J’ai donc choisi de créer une ambiance joyeuse, ludique, fantaisiste, parsemée de petits détails et clins d’oeil complices qui captiveront les enfants. J’ai essayé d’inventer un monde fantasque, habité par un nombre croissant de personnages: enfants, clowns, sirènes, acrobates, éléphants roses, chats, lapins et poissons volants.
En fait, j’ai choisi de raconter une histoire utilisant le même processus créatif que lorsque j’écris et j’illustre mes livres jeunesse.
C’est l’histoire des enfants qui fréquentent joyeusement année après année le festival Les petits bonheurs.
My very best wishes to all of you, and here's hoping that in 2014 you will rediscover the wonder of the world around you with a child's eyes.
This is why in my first drawing of 2014, I wanted to depict the joyfulness of winter as perceived by small children. How they are astonished and delighted by the first snowfall. Fat fluffy flakes brushing their cold pink cheeks, transforming the world into a luminous and magical icescape. How they are lovingly wrapped up by their parents in layers of colorful sweaters, tuques, scarves and tied-on mittens and sent out to build snowmen or small igloos, to slide down enormous hills or skate on a frozen pond while listening to frogs snoring under the ice...
A busy year of books and plays and art and readings...
The coming year looks as busy as last year even if I had promised myself to take on less work. In January, I will do a residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier followed by literary events throughout the winter and into spring: The Outaouais Book Fair, the Quebec City Book Fair, the Toronto Public Library's Book Bash, The Blue Metropolis Festival in Montreal and the Congrès de mots et de craie in Sherbrooke.
Two of my books will be published in the fall: Any Questions? a madcap story-within-a-story where some kids and an author/illustrator (guess who?) write the adventures of a shy young giant together, and Sam! A Little Treasury, a collection of the three Sam books with an introduction by Stella (in her own hand!). Two plays will also be produced in the fall: The Mermaid Theater from Nova Scotia will be producing a puppet play based on Stella, Queen of the Snow and one of my older puppet plays will be revived in Montreal.
Meanwhile, and in between these various activities, I will be writing and illustrating a new book. Ouf!
Signed prints of my artwork, featuring Stella, Sam and Caramba!
Many of you often ask if I sell my original drawings. As a matter of fact I don't, because they are fragile and sensitive to light, which is why I have donated most of my original artwork to the Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa and The Osborne Collection of Early Children's books at the Toronto Public Library. This way, the artwork is stored in a safe place, but is also available for viewing by students and researchers and anyone interested in children's picturebook art. However, now I have decided to offer signed and numbered high-quality prints of some of my art. You can take a look at the new store on this site.
Je vous souhaite une année 2014 heureuse et lumineuse qui vous inspirera à découvrir le monde avec vos yeux d'enfant. C'est pourquoi j'ai choisi d'illustrer cette joyeuse bande d'enfants émerveillés et ravis par la magie de l'hiver. Les gros flocons blancs qui chatouillent leurs joues rosies par le froid transforment le paysage en un monde lumineux et enchanté. Ces enfants emballés dans leurs lainages, tuques, mitaines et foulards multicolores virevoltent sur la patinoire et façonneront bonhommes de neige, igloos ou châteaux de glace. L'hiver, vu par les enfants, est un pur plaisir..
Une année grouillante de lectures, d'évènements littéraires et artistiques, de théâtre et de livres...
Malgré toutes mes résolutions de travailler un peu moins, l'année 2014 sera fort occupée. En janvier, je serai artiste en résidence au Vermont College of Art and Design à Montpelier au Vermont. Au cours de l'hiver je serai invitée d'honneur au Salon du livre de l'Outaouais; je ferai des lectures et animations au Salon du livre de Québec et au Book Bash de la bibliothèque publique de Toronto; je serai la porte-parole pour le volet littérature-jeunesse au Festival Metropolis Bleu et je donnerai deux conférences au Congrès de mots et de craie à Sherbrooke.
Deux de mes projets de livres seront publiés à l'automne: Any Questions? Un livre hybride et débridé, entre le livre d'images et la BD, et une anthologie de livres de la collection Sacha avec une introduction écrite par Stella elle-même. Deux pièces de théâtre seront présentées à l'automne: le Mermaid Theatre de la Nouvelle Ecosse commencera une tourneé de sa pièce de marionettes qui est une adaptation de mon livre, Stella, reine des neiges et une de mes pièces de marionettes sera reprise à Montréal. Entretemps et malgré tout, je plancherai sur un tout nouveau livre. Ouf
Des impressions signées et numérotées mettent en vedette Stella, Sacha et Caramba!
Beaucoup d'entre vous me demandent si je vends mes oeuvres originales. La réponse est non, d'une part parce que mes illustrations à l'aquarelle sont très fragiles et très sensibles à la lumière, c'est pourquoi j'ai fait don de la plupart de mes originaux à la Bibliothèque et archives du Canada et à la Collection Osborne de livres pour enfants de la bibliothèque publique de Toronto. Mes archives sont entreposées de manière sécuritaire mais peuvent aussi être consultées par des étudiants ou chercheurs ou passionnnés de littérature pour enfants. Bref, j'ai décidé d'offrir des impressions de haute qualité, signées et numérotées, de certains de mes originaux. Vous pouvez les retrouver dans le nouveau magasin (cliquer sur 'store' sur la page d'accueil) sur ce site.
I was gripping my mother’s hand when we arrived at the door to the kindergarten. My baby sister held on to my mother’s other hand, sobbing loudly and dragging her feet. She had been scared to death by the smiling crossing guard who said hello to her. You would have thought he had bitten her.
We had walked all the way from the motel where we had been living for a month. We had moved from Montreal to Oakville, Ontario for my father’s new job, but my parents couldn’t find an affordable apartment. So we were living temporarily in a tiny white decrepit cabin, part of the Miracle Motel complex on the outskirts of Oakville. The miracle was that the four of us could live, sleep and eat in one small, unheated room with a kitchenette. My sister and I slept on the couch, my parents on the foldout bed. All our toys and books were in storage so we mostly played on the stoop with rocks and twigs. We were the sole guests of the motel. The days were long and boring. I missed my friends in Montreal.
So, as you can imagine, I had been waiting impatiently for this first day of school. My mother kept telling me how wonderful it would be: I would make friends, sing songs, draw pictures and read books. There would be new games and new toys. There was a playground where I would play tag, jump rope and play hopscotch with all my new friends. We went shopping for a new dress, new shoes, a pink schoolbag and a Babar lunchbox. I was so excited I could hardly sleep the night before.
We entered the kindergarten room. A big light-filled colorful room with children’s drawings taped all over the walls, shelves of books and mountains of toys. There were children playing, laughing, running. A tall smiling lady came over and talked with my mother, then bent down to talk to me. Meaningless sounds came out of her mouth. I strained to hear. More meaningless sounds. Puzzled, I looked at my mother, who laughed and said, “Voici ton professeur Madame Jennifer. Elle parle anglais.”
My mother had forgotten to mention one small thing: I would be starting school in English. I had never heard a word of English in my life. “Ne t’en fais pas, tu apprendras vite”— Don’t worry, you will learn English very quickly — said my mother as she kissed and hugged me tight. “Je reviens bientôt.” She left, pulling my sobbing sister after her.
I stood by the door. The colors drained out of the room. I felt cold. All the children seemed to stare at me. They knew that I couldn’t speak their language. This wasn’t going to be wonderful at all. I carefully put my new Babar lunchbox on the floor and stiffly turned my back to the class. Through the window I could see my mother walking quickly down the street with my sister in her arms. They got smaller and smaller, then disappeared into the distance.
“How long does it take to learn a new language?” I asked myself. I knew that if I didn’t move I would be invisible. But someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned slowly. A fat girl in a pink dress wearing sparkly blue glasses smiled at me and took my hand. She gently pulled me to the carpet where all the children sat in a circle. I sat down next to her. The children started singing a song in the language I did not understand. After a while I hummed along. The fat girl with the sparkly blue glasses smiled at me.
I hummed louder.
I think that of all the Stella and Sam books I have written, Read Me A Story, Stella is the one where I most recognize myself as the child I was.
From the age of six, I was a voracious, omnivorous and insatiable reader. I read all the time and everywhere: in bed, when I woke up at dawn; at breakfast (mainly cereal boxes); on the school bus, with erasers and paper airplanes flying over my head; in the classroom, hiding my book under my desk; and in various forts built out of ferns and branches (see Stella, Fairy of the Forest) in the forest across the road from our house. I read in the bathtub (see On my Island), which waterlogged quite a few of my books; while walking the dog; and, of course, in bed with a flashlight under the covers (I think flashlights should be mandatory in children's bedrooms). I carried the stories and images within me, making connections with the world that I was discovering as I grew up. They became part of my life, and, even today, evoke moments of great happiness.
That doesn't mean that I was a quiet, bookish, introspective child — au contraire. I was active and enthusiastic, eager to discover the world around me. But I needed books to nourish me — I was always hungry. Their characters would inspire my daydreams, my games of role-playing with my friends and my theatrical ventures in the basement of our house (see Rainy Day Magic). Big bad wolves and sly foxes, wicked stepmothers and hungry witches would make me thrill with fear, knowing all the while that there was often a happy ending. I would identify with the emotions of the heroes or heroines — the mischievousness of Curious George, the fearlessness of Madeline, the wise and mysterious Petit Prince, the hilarious Petit Nicolas, the intrepid Tintin or the tragic sadness of Hansel and Gretel abandoned by their parents. Later on, I would identify with Velvet Brown in National Velvet, Lucy and Peter in the Chronicles of Narnia or Anne of Green Gables. I would go on and on, throughout my adolescence and into adulthood.
In Read Me A Story, Stella, I wanted to suggest that books are a powerful and dynamic part of a child's life. They connect the child to the outside world and offer new perspectives. Books bring forward questions and stimulate the imagination. Books reassure children that they are not alone. But I did not want Read Me A Story, Stella, to have a heavy-handed message about the joys of reading. I wanted to continue to write about Stella and Sam enjoying another day of adventures with minute discoveries and moments of wonder, which is what childhood should be like, building a perfect wolf-proof doghouse for Fred, teaching Fred to fly a kite, watching carrots grow, and wondering if there are crocodiles and rhinoceroses in the pond. Stella and Sam see rabbit-shaped clouds, soft wriggly caterpillars and frogs that wear green velvet jackets.
But throughout this perfect summer day, Stella is seen reading books that make her laugh, that wax poetic or connect in unforeseen ways with the adventures that she and Sam are having.
Since a book shared with a child (or with a whole class) is meant to be read, to inspire the imagination and start a conversation, try this after reading Read Me A Story, Stella:
• Ask the child if she can think of a story where a wolf blows a house down. Does she think that Sam has read that story? Which is stronger, a wolf or a tornado?
• Stella says, "Caterpillars go to sleep for a long, long time and dream about flying." That's how they become butterflies. Is she right? Look up caterpillars in an insect book. Ask the child if he has seen any insects in Read Me a Story, Stella. Go through the book again and let him find them.
• Has the child ever read a book about flying cats? (see Caramba)
• Or a book about making soup with stones? (see Stone Soup)
• Or a book about bats?
• Go outside, and find a soft patch of grass to lie on. Look at the clouds and spot different cloud-shapes.
A book doesn't really end, it is the beginning of a thought process that colors our vision of the world.
When I was young, I had pen pals from around the world. I was curious about the lives that other kids led – their hobbies, their studies and their countries. I received letters from Egypt, France and the Netherlands, addressed in flowing cursive handwriting or scrawled in pencil. Most envelopes bore many multicolored stamps on which exotic plants bloomed, wild animals ran and tropical birds flew. Others portrayed great palaces, pyramids and remote deserts. I was fascinated by these tiny windows that opened onto strange new worlds. I would dream about visiting these faraway places that had chosen an elephant, a camel, a mosque or a pagoda, a glorious piece of art or a regal monarch to represent their country.
All these evocative images came back to me when Canada Post proposed to create two stamps featuring art from my series of Stella and Sam books. I was thrilled, having never envisioned that the characters I had created 15 years ago would one day have the honor of being on a stamp. I was especially proud and happy that these stamps would underline the importance of children's literature in Canada as well as promoting literacy.
The stamps were beautifully and meticulously designed by Peter Scott of q30 Design. The two images were cropped to place the focus on Stella hanging upside down from a tree, and on Stella, Sam and Fred sharing a book together.
Notice how Stella's curly hair flows outside of the image, a tiny exquisite detail that creates movement and a sense of space. The same could be said about the boat in the background sailing off the stamp or the branch of the tree reaching out beyond the border of the drawing, shaking its leaves in the wind. I was amazed that the images would be so clear and so true to the originals even after being so greatly reduced in size.
I was very happy about the choice of images, because, to me, they perfectly reflect Stella and Sam's personalities, as well as some of the intense joys of childhood – the exuberance and playfulness of Stella hanging upside down from a branch and the sweet, gentle sibling relationship between Stella and Sam as they read a book together.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if these stamps encouraged children to write letters, share books with their friends and siblings or hang upside down and pretend they are bats?
À l'adolescence, j'avais des correspondants aux quatre coins du monde! Je trouvais leurs noms dans les petites annonces de la célèbre revue de bandes dessinées, Pilote. J'étais curieuse et avide de savoir comment vivaient les jeunes ailleurs dans le monde. Quels étaient leurs passe-temps ? Leur musique préférée ? À quoi rêvaient-ils ? Je recevais des lettres d'un peu partout, de l'Egypte, de l'Afrique, de la France ou de la Hollande, entre autres. Les enveloppes étaient toujours ornées de plusieurs timbres multicolores. On y retrouvait des plantes exotiques, des bêtes sauvages ou des oiseaux tropicaux. D'autres arboraient d'immenses palais, des pyramides ou de vastes déserts. J'étais fascinée par ces petites fenêtres qui s'ouvraient sur des mondes insolites et inconnus. Je rêvais de voyager dans ces pays qui avaient choisi un éléphant ou un chameau, une mosquée ou une pagode, une oeuvre d'art ou un roi pour représenter leur pays.
Ces images inspirantes qui me permettaient de voyager dans mon imaginaire me sont revenues lorsque Poste Canada a proposé la création de deux timbres à l'effigie des héros de ma série de livres Stella et Sacha. Cette proposition me ravissait, je n'avais jamais imaginé que ces petits personnages que j'avais créés il y a quinze ans, en quelques coups de pinceaux et avec mes mots, auraient l'honneur de représenter le Canada sur des timbres. Mais j'étais surtout heureuse et fière parce que ces timbres allaient souligner l'importance de la littérature pour enfants, tout en faisant la promotion de la lecture.
Je suis très heureuse du choix des dessins. Ils représentent bien les personnalités de Stella et de Sacha. L’exubérance et la joie de vivre de Stella, suspendue à l'envers dans une branche d'arbre, imitant une chauve-souris… Et la douce ambiance de partage et d'amitié fraternelle entre Stella et Sacha qui lisent un livre ensemble.
J'ai été étonnée que ces timbres, conçus par Peter Scott de Q30 Design, reflètent si fidèlement les couleurs des dessins originaux et
l'esprit de mon univers, jusque dans les moindres détails. Remarquez les cheveux de Stella qui débordent de l'image comme si le vent soufflait doucement, ou le voilier qui semble vouloir s'évader sur des mers lointaines en dehors du cadre. L'attention portée à ces petits détails donne une impression d'espace et de fluidité.
Quel plaisir d'imaginer ces timbres voyageant à travers le monde et, qui sait, inspirant peut-être des enfants à écrire des lettres ou à partager un livre avec un ami ...