My Life So Far


I was born in Quebec City into a nomadic family. We moved ten times before I was twelve years old, from Montreal to Vancouver and back, with frequent stops in between. During these travels, I learned to speak a new language (English), I marveled at the landscapes of rocky mountains, wild oceans, rainforests and prairie skies, and I understood that my best and most constant friends would always be books.

We often think that a future artist’s talent is apparent during their childhood. Not in my case. As a child, I did not draw much and after failing art in Grade 3, I gave up drawing for the next ten years.

 I tried piano lessons. Since we had no piano at home, I had to practice on a cardboard replica of a piano keyboard. I had absolutely no musical talent at all. At the suggestion of my piano teacher, my musical career was terminated.

When I was nine years old, I became a child actress. I acted on stage and in several TV series. I missed a lot of school and was the envy of my classmates. Unfortunately, our family got itchy feet once again and headed back to Montreal. My promising acting career bit the dust.

By the time I had become a disgruntled and bored teenager of seventeen or so, something strange and wonderful happened. A series of bizarre cartoon creatures invaded my schoolbooks. Purple pigs flew in and out of my math equations, rabbits skated on my Latin verbs and cats wearing running shoes snored on top of my algebra problems. I was the creator of these creatures! Obviously, my mind was elsewhere. You just had to look at my report card. But from then on, I knew I had found my passion.

I enrolled at the Institut des arts graphiques in Montreal, where I studied graphic design. But a need to be more creative took me to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School where I majored in animation. Later on, I studied illustration at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco.

Over the years, I worked as a professional illustrator, illustrating magazines, textbooks and posters. I was a freelance art director and production manager for a children’s book publisher. I taught illustration at the Université du Québec à Montréal. 

I also designed clothes for children and wrote three plays for which I created the sets, puppets and costumes.

But at a certain point, I fell in love with children’s books and the idea of weaving words and images, poetry and color to create stories where my characters would live great adventures and feel much emotion. A rich visual world where everything was possible.

Since then, I have written and/or illustrated over sixty books for children — board books, picture books and novels — inspired by my childhood, my own children, my travels and especially by my overheated imagination. I write my stories in English and in French and my books have also been translated into many languages. Languages I cannot even speak or read: Chinese, German, Slovenian, Hebrew and Portuguese, to name a few. Fortunately, my illustrations can be read in any language. 

When I first started writing and illustrating books, I was surprised and very pleased to be invited to meet children, teachers and librarians in schools and libraries across Canada, from Inuvik to St. John’s, from Tête-à-la-Baleine to the Queen Charlotte Islands. I continue to do readings, workshops and conferences in North America, China and Europe.

I live in Montreal with my family. I still travel a lot, on foot, bicycle, by airplane and canoe — but mainly through my imagination.

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