Today I am thrilled to welcome Marianne Dubuc for a French Friday/Fabulous Five mash-up, so to speak. Marianne is from Québec and is the author and illustrator of the internationally acclaimed The Lion and the Bird, published by Book Island and translated from French by translator extraordinaire Sarah Ardizzone.
The Lion and the Bird tells the story of an unlikely friendship which develops when Lion rescues Bird, who was on his way South for winter, and nurses his broken wing. They spend winter together and forge a close bond but when spring returns, Bird cannot fight his primal urge to fly to follow his flock as they fly by, heading North again. With a heavy-heart, Lion returns to his old solitary life. But soon enough autumn is around the corner again, and the birds will be passing by Lion’s house on their way. Will Bird come back to see his friend?
The Lion and the Bird is a deeply human tale of the importance of friendship and learning to let go. There is a certain stillness about this book that forces the reader to slow down in his/her page-turning. The colours are muted, and the artwork textured. No saturated colours, no bold lines. Just softness, all the way through. Altogether they create a sense of calm which is mirrored throughout the tale. Seasonal changes and time passing is also conveyed eloquently and beautifully. The text is succinct, clues are often simply in the artwork. What is most interesting is how Marianne Dubuc uses this artwork to pace the story, with an alternative use of vignettes, unframed full spread, and there is a very daring use of the blank page. In the video below, Marianne mentions how this affects readers differently, as they fill the ‘void’ of the blank page with their own memories and relate their own experiences to the narrative, something that reader-response theory focuses on. The blank double-spread is particularly striking in its evocation of the silence of deep winter but also the quiet contentment that comes with a perfect friendship. It is an incredible achievement to create such an impact with a blank space and shows real mastery of the medium.
Wonderfully evocative, memorable and powerful, The Lion and the Bird will tug at your heart strings for all the right reasons. It is a superb example of the power of this medium at communicating deep emotion.
You can listen to Marianne speak about the book and its inspiration in this video from the Canadian Council for the Arts. The video is in French with English subtitles:
You can also read all about Marianne’s artistic process on this Picturebook Makers post.
And now to Marianne’s Fabulous Five choices:
Five Fabulous Books About Friendship
by Marianne Dubuc
The Lion and The Bird being a story about a friendship, I thought I would make a selection of five of my favorite books about … friends. There are many, many, many books I love, and a lot of them are about friendship. But here are 5 special books I selected because they either make me feel good, sad, or simply happy.
The Bear and the Wildcat
Kazumi Yumoto & Komako Sakai
This book is one of my alltime favorites. I love the illustrations, I love the idea, the text… It is about a bear who’s friend Little Bird has died. Bear has to learned to let go, and time seems to be the only thing that will help. His encounter with Wild Cat might be the key to moving on. A very beautiful story about holding on to a friendship, missing an old friend, having to learn to live without a lost one, and about a whole new friendship to discover.
Croc and Bird
Croc and Bird are born the same day, without any parents to tell them what they are, what they should eat and what they should do. So they learn from each other. They both learn to fly, to swim, to find food, although they don’t do everything as well as the other (a crocodile can hardly fly!). But one day, they come to realize that they are not, as they have always thought, brothers. They then try to live as a bird and a crocodile should, but it is their friendship that brings them back together. It is such a sweet, simple and funny story about living your life the way you want it to be, with whoever you want.
Big Wolf and Little Wolf
Nadine Brun-Cosme & Olivier Tallec
The first book in a series of three, Big Wolf and Little Wolf is about a new friendship, and about how you can learn to love and need someone, no matter their size, and even if at first you really don’t think you need them in your life. Little Wolf comes to Big Wolf’s tree one day, and decides to stay. At first Big Wolf is very unhappy about this strange visitor. But as days pass, he gets to appreciate his presence. Then one day, Little Wolf disappears. And Big Wolf realizes how important little wolf was in his life. The text in this book is wonderful, so rich and quiet at the same time.
Little Blue and Little Yellow
Another classic, but so much fun to read to kids. Made only with shredded paper, it is the story of Little Blue and Little Yellow who are not only neighbors, but best friends. They like each other so much, that one day they even turn … green. And their parents don’t recognize them anymore. A graphic book that children love to discover because it is so different from the illustrated books they are used to see.
La visite de Petite Mort
Sadly, this book has not been published in English yet. Petite Mort (Little Death) is a child who has the task of taking people from their lives and bringing them to “the other side”. When she appears, people cry and are afraid of her. Until she comes to get Elsevise. Elsevise is a little girl like Little Death, and she doesn’t cry. She is not afraid of her. She is happy to see her, to be relieved from her sickness and to leave with Little Death. They become friends, and Little Death learns to play hide and seek, to laugh, and life seems
more fun with Elsevise. But one day, Elsevise has to leave for the other side. As they part, Little Death is very sad to lose her friend.
A book about death, but also about a beautiful friendship, and how a friend can change your life in the best way.
Thank you so much Marianne, what a wonderful selection. I am a big fan of Komako Sakai and Olivier Tallec myself! La visite de Petite Mort is such an interesting book, yet possibly too ‘daring’ for publishers I think. unfortunately, hence its lack of English translation.
The Lion and the Bird is out now and can be purchased here.