You may not have noticed that your favourite movie or television show has been created by a Québécois filmmaker. Did you love the high drama and intensity of the thrillers Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015)? Then you’re a fan of Québec-born director Denis Villeneuve. What about the series Big Little Lies (2017-19) and Sharp Objects (2018)? They were both directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, born and raised in Montréal. The incredibly talented Montréal filmmaker and actor Xavier Dolan’s first English-language film The Death & Life of John F. Donovan premiered at TIFF in 2018.
In recognition of Vaughan Public Libraries marking five years of expanded French services, as well as the recent release of the highly anticipated Dune (2021), Villeneuve’s latest sci-fi blockbuster, I wanted to highlight these three Canadian filmmakers from Québec who have made their mark in Hollywood with their distinct visions, styles, and a dash of je ne sais quoi. Their earlier French-language work demonstrates their skill and talent and hints at the larger projects that were to come. Check them out at your local VPL bibliothèque!
Throw away all your preconceptions of what picture books for children should look like or what trajectory they should follow, because you’re in for a real treat! This title had me laughing out loud the further into the story I got, at first with a chuckle at the premise that Catherine should spend whatever she likes because she won’t be around long enough to have to deal with the debts she incurs from her irresponsible spending habits – she has a point – and then as we made our way along the story, irrepressible laughter at Catherine’s unflappable practicality and unapologetic personality. I was reminded of Ariana Grande’s 7 rings throughout the entire book, in the best of ways.
I happened upon this title recently and absolutely adored it (I was tempted to rip off a coworker’s Staff Pick sticker so I could put my own on it), for reasons I’m sure are obvious just looking at the cover: Le livre où la poule meurt à la fin by François Blais, illustrated by Valérie Boivin. I agree with this reviewer that the complete irreverence of the entire book towards the topic of death (normally treated as a taboo topic, though do take a look at how other authors have treated death in picture books) is actually quite refreshing, especially what with the bright colours used throughout and the flippant, very tongue-in-cheekily practical attitude Catherine – the chicken – herself has towards her fate.
Hilarious through and through, this alternate perspective on death and what one can do with the knowledge of our own impending doom is a complete delight. And if you’re into unexpected twists (it’s almost like a right-angle Freytag triangle of plot structure), you might also enjoy another book by the same author in the same grimace series: 752 lapins, same author & illustrator duo. There’s also this other review of both of these titles that I enjoyed especially for their discussion suggestions with the child if you’re reading to one.
Keep reading for more (slightly less audacious) French picture books!