Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Our Story

We've had many adventures as a bilingual family, but this is perhaps the most exciting so far.  Today, a book with our names on is leaving a printer's just outside Lyon.

Squishy My Pet Slug in English, Malice Ma Limace in French is a story that we wrote when we were living in Scotland.  At the time, Puce was desperate for a pet, but we had neither the room nor the possibility as we were living in rental accommodation with no long-term view.  We were finding it harder to get a variety and exposure to French books for Puce.  Adamant about sticking to the OPOL method, it did sometimes seem a pity that we couldn't share our stories; Mr R and I started thinking it would be nice to have a story that we could both read and talk to Puce about.

It was only when we found a huge slug on top of our compost bin that we had the idea of writing our own story.  What would happen if we adopted this slug as our pet? It's often the things that seem ridiculous that generate the best inspiration.  As a family, we agreed on a story that we would like to read.  Mr R wrote it in French, I wrote in English and Puce set to with biro and scrap paper to draw pictures to accompany the words, drawing our languages together through images.  Mr R made a video and uploaded it to Youtube.  We were quite happy when we had about 200 views after a couple of years, it was a lovely souvenir of our time in Scotland.

Back in France 3 years later, chatting to co-founder of the newly created bluedot editions in Lyon, I mentioned the story and video...and the project for a book was born.  Bluedot reached out to the talented and ecologically-minded illustrator Faustine Brunet, who accepted the challenge of bringing Tess' original drawings to life with colour and embellishments.  The result is a beautiful, simple, playful book that makes us smile every time we look at it.

I love that this is not a translation - there is not a dominant language that has required the other to search for equivalents, which is in harmony with how our family balances languages.  Mr R wrote using his vision of the tale, I wrote as I would recount it - the slug is he in English and she in French, it just sounds right that way.  I love that Puce's amazing vision of the main character jumps out of every page (would an adult have thought of drawing a slug with a camera?!).  I love that Faustine has managed to keep the original drawings whilst making some of them more "legible"!  And I love that an early suggestion as to the slug's attire became a reality: the tartan illustration used in the book has been made into fabric using Woven Monkey.  Not only did my mum create the character so that a local bookshop A Titre d'Aile can use it as a window display for the launch, but also Anne Ponsoye of the Fees et Geste workshop in Lyon will be running workshops to create Squishy/Malice tote bags!

Will this be the next Gruffalo in terms of must-read books for children?  Who knows...but throughout this project, Puce has learnt about so many different careers that exist, working together to help celebrate creativity and make a lasting mark on our cultural landscape.  Thank you to everyone who has been involved and thank you to bluedot editions for bringing this book to life!


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