CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 5. . . .October 3, 2014 |
Marie-Louise Gay has the extraordinary ability to inhabit the mind and voice of a young child. Witness that multi-award winning talent in many of her previously successful books, such as the “Stella and Sam” series. This gift of being in tune with the young, plus her own curiosity as a child, help explain how she prizes the importance of questions. Any Questions? examines the myriad of possible queries posed to her about her books, her life and the writing process. The combination of these questions and the respectful way she deals with them result in a unique story-within-a-story which makes this title so winning.
Not only does Marie-Louise Gay recount many of the questions posed to her over her career, but she indicates possible answers and gives her readers many options to ponder. As she develops the creative process in a collaborative way with some curious admirers, Gay starts to conceive a story on a blank sheet of paper. Before the readers’ eyes, and with the help of a few young budding authors, we have a front row seat as we see words and ideas formed, floating around, some discarded, some kept, some even misspelled.
Several youngsters continue to throw out helpful ideas encased in cartoon bubbles as the author tries to decide which way her story will go with, “there lived a.. , there lived a...a ...” Her difficulty is questioned by her little companions, with one commenting, “How come you don’t know? You’re the author!”
Gay’s trademark humour is always evident, and the dialogue between Gay and her helpers is irrepressible and charming. Gay explains that imagination is important to writing, and so is trying out new ideas and letting the “mind wander”. We discover that the process is not linear, but almost magical as she settles on sketching out a story about a shy young giant. Cleverly, she encourages her readers to take part in continuing the narrative.
Lovingly illustrated in watercolour, coloured pencil, pastel, and collage, Gay’s cartoon-like drawings convey the exuberance of the young, with some hilarious comments and asides. The messy pages, with her equipment, art tools and discarded pages in disarray, help to convey an author/illustrator at work. These energetic and colourful illustrations, with youngsters getting in the act of drawing, help to create a playful and lively tone. As Gay starts to flesh out the actual story, the shape of the text and print changes to reflect her ideas and changes again to indicate the efforts of her helpers. If it sounds complicated, it isn’t! It is just chaotic and delightful.
The last two pages of this book are devoted to Gay’s factual answers, including an encouragement to her fans to contact her with further questions. As she explains, a story emerges slowly, with “endless possibilities and choices”, just like Gay’s “endless” talent. Entering the imaginative world of this author/illustrator is always a treat.
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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