2015 Calendar / Calendrier 2015

It was a lovely challenge to design and illustrate a calendar for la Librairie Monet, a great bookstore in Montreal that prints a calendar every year, illustrated by an illustrator of children's books, to give as a promotional gift to their customers, teachers, librairians and distributors. The challenge is the size: 12 inches wide by 34 inches high, but also how to illustrate books, the pleasure of reading, literacy etc with a fresh, original take? Not so easy when thousands of illustrators have depicted these ideas. Here is my calendar for 2015:

Un beau défi que d'illustrer un calendrier  pour la librairie Monet, une belle librairie dynamique à Montréal qui publie chaque année un grand calendrier illustré par un illustrateur de livre pour enfants pour donner en cadeau et en promotion à leurs clients, aux enseignants, aux bibliothècaires et aux distributeurs. Le défi c'est la taille: 12 pouces x 34pouces mais surtout c'est la question: comment créer une image qui parle de lecture, de livres, du plaisir de lire etc d'une manière originale? Pas si facile quand des milliers d'illustrateurs ont crée des images sur ces sujets. Voici mon calendrier 2015:

Le Jardin De Babel

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.

Stella, Star of the Stage

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...

On my first day of school

Me, as a little girl.

Me, as a little girl.

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.

This blog post was originally published on the Groundwood Books and House of Anansi blog. Click here to read posts from my fellow Groundwood authors on their first days of school.

Marie-Louise Gay's books are available from your favourite wholesaler or bookstore.
Or visit Groundwood Books.