How did you get started in children’s books?
I have always loved to draw, but I never thought I would make a living out of it! I took part of an illustration contest, and on the jury there happened to be a publisher. The day after the contest results were known, I got an email inviting me to make a book. I had “carte blanche” to write and illustrate a story. And that is how it all began.
What (or who) inspires your writing or art?
I basically started writing books at the same time I had my son. I stayed home with him, and wrote and illustrated while he napped or during the night. The rest of the time, thanks to him, I just bathed in childhood. When his little sister arrived, we just kept the same lifestyle. I guess that has inspired me a lot, without me even noticing. And you can add to that all the books and movies, and images I saw as a child, and my love for children’s literature.
What was your favourite book as a child? Why?
My favourite book was Les habits oiseaux by Anne-Marie Chapouton (could be translated as The Bird Clothes). I recently found it on eBay, and it is not as exciting as I remember it to be. But I loved the images, and the main character who looked a lot like me. She had a really messy bedroom, her clothes lying all around. Her mother would ask her why, and she would explain that the clothes, as she took them off, would just fly away. In the end, her father builds her a standing coat rack, where her “bird” clothes could perch themselves. I guess I liked this quirky idea.
How can teachers use your books in the classroom?
There are many many ways my books can be used with students. My books are all very different, and each of them has something fun that can inspire a fun activity. Most of them have tons of details the young ones can describe, and have fun creating other images with as much details. Others have very little text, so it is the images that tell the story. Children can experiment with the relationship between text and image, trying to invent new text with my images, or all writing text for one single image and compare how different their interpretations are. I also use animals as characters in all of my books. I like to explore the ideas a certain animal can add to a character. Children could try to create a character (his name, what he does for a living, where he lives) and choose an animal that can go with it (a very lazy sloth that would be a professional pillow tester, per example). For any more ideas, teachers can contact me and I will be delighted to give them ideas.
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
Being an author and illustrator, I usually work alone, from home. I don’t get to see a lot of people, and touring in schools gives me a chance to see my books come to life in the hands of the readers. I like to visit a town or village and go in the classrooms. I feel it gives you a sense of the area you don’t get otherwise. So I am really looking forward to meeting the students and their teachers. Also, my great-great-grandfather was established here in Manitoba, and I am happy to visit for the first time.