Gay, Marie-Louise 1952-

Gay, Marie-Louise 1952-


Born June 17, 1952, in Québec City, Québec, Canada; daughter of Bernard Roland Gay (a sales representative) and Colette Fontaine (a homemaker); married, c. 1972 (husband died, c. 1975); companion of David Toby Homel (an author and translator); children: (with Homel) Gabriel Reubens, Jacob Paul. Education: Attended Institute of Graphic Arts of Montréal, 1970-71; Montréal Museum of Fine Arts School, graduated, 1973; attended Academy of Art College (San Francisco, CA), 1977-79.


Home—Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Author, illustrator, graphic artist, cartoonist, animator, sculptor, and set, costume, and clothing designer. Actress on Canadian television and in local theater, c. 1961-62. Editorial illustrator for Canadian and American periodicals, 1972-87; graphic designer for magazines Perspectives and Decormag, 1974-76; La Courte Echelle (publishing company), Montréal, Québec, Canada, art director, 1980; University of Québec—Montréal, lecturer in illustration, beginning 1981; visiting lecturer in illustration, Ahuntsic College, 1984-85. Speaker at workshops and conferences at schools and libraries. Designer of children's clothing, beginning 1985; set designer for animated film La Boite, 1989. Exhibitions: Work exhibited in group and solo shows throughout Canada as well as internationally, including at Humor Pavillion, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 1974; Montréal Museum of Contemporary Art, 1979; Galerie 858, Montréal, 1980; Communication-Jeunnesse, Montréal, 1981-86; Toronto Art Directors' Club Show, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1982-83; Galerie Articule and Centre Culturel NDG, Montréal, 1984-86; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 1988-90; Mable's Fable's, Toronto, 1990; and Ceperley House Gallery, Burnaby, British Columbia, 2000.


Canadian Children's Book Center, IBBY Canada.

Awards, Honors

Claude Neon National Billboard Award, 1972; Western Art Directors Club Award, San Francisco, 1978; Society of Illustrators Award, 1979; Toronto Art Directors Club Award, 1983, 1985; Alvine-Belisle Prize for best French-Canadian children's book of the year, 1984, for La soeur de Robert; Canada Council Children's Literature Prize for illustration, 1984, for "Drôle d'école" series (French-Canadian prize) and for Lizzy's Lion (English-Canadian prize); Amelia Frances Howard- Gibbon Illustrator's Award, Canadian Association of Children's Librarians, 1986, for Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear; Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature—Illustration, 1987, and Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award, 1988, both for Rainy Day Magic; Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature—Illustration shortlist, 1989, for Angel and the Polar Bear, 1996, for Berthold et Lucréce; White Ravens Award selection, International Youth Library (Munich), 1993, for Mademoiselle Moon; Ehrenliste zum Osterreichiscchen Kinder-und Jugenbuchpreis, 1995, for Fat Charlie's Circus (German edition); Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature—Illustration shortlist, Mr. Christie's Book Award, and Storytelling World Awards Honor designation, all 1997, all for The Fabulous Song; Governor General's Literary Award for Children's Literature—Illustration shortlist, and Mr. Christie's Book Award shortlist, both 1998, both for Rumpelstiltskin; second prize, Alcuin Citations, Design Citations for Canadian Publishers, 1999, for Dreams Are More Real than Bathtubs; Governor General's Literary Award (Children's Literature—Illustration), 2000, for Yuck: A Love Story; shortlisted, Governor General's Literary Award (Children's Literature—Illustration), 2000, for Sur mon île (French edition); Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award, Ontario Arts Council, Mr. Christie's Book Award, Amelia Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award nomination, and IBBY Honours List designation, all 2000, all for Stella, Star of the Sea; Governor General's Literary Award Children's Literature—Illustration, and Canadian Booksellers Association Illustrator of the Year Award shortlist, both 2000, both for Yuck: A Love Story; Ruth Schwartz Award shortlist, Mr. Christie's Book Award nomination, Elizabeth Mazrik-Cleaver Award, and Talking Book of the Year Award, all 2001, all for Stella, Queen of the Snow; named Children's Illustrator of the Year, Canadian Booksellers Association, 2000; Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award nomination, 2006.



De zéro à minuit (title means "From Zero to Midnight"), La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1981.

La soeur de Robert (title means "Robert's Sister"), La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1983.

Voyage au Clair de Lune, Heritage (Saint-Lambert, Canada), 1986, translated as Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear, Silver Burdett (Morristown, NJ), 1986, reissued with new design, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Magie d'un jour de pluie, Héritage (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1986, translated as Rainy Day Magic, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1987, Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1989.

Angèle et l'ours polaire, Heritage (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1988, translated as Angel and the Polar Bear, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1988, Kane/Miller (Brooklyn, NY), 1997.

Le cirque de Charlie Chou, Héritage (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1989, translated as Fat Charlie's Circus, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1989.

Willy Nilly (adapted from the author's puppet play, Bonne fête Willy; also see below), Albert Whitman (Morton Grove, IL), 1990.

Mademoiselle Moon, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Lapin bleu, Heritage (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1993, translated as Rabbit Blue, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1993.

Mimi-la-nuit, Heritage (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1994, translation published as Midnight Mimi, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Qui a peur de Loulou?: théâtre (adapted from the author's puppet play; also see below), Editions VLB (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1994.

(Reteller) The Three Little Pigs, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994, Publishers Group West, 1996.

(Reteller) Rumpelstiltskin, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.

Princesse Pistache, Dominique et Cie. (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1999.

Le jardin de Babel: théâtre (adapted from the author's puppet play; also see below), Lanctot (Outremont, Québec, Canada), 1999.

Sur mon île, 1999, translated as On My Island, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Caramba!, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 2007, English translation, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.

Les malheurs de princesse Pistache, Dominique et Cie. (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 2007.


Rond comme ton visage, Ovale (Québec, Canada), 1984.

Blanc comme neige, Ovale (Québec, Canada), 1984.

Petit et grand, Ovale (Québec, Canada), 1984.

Un léopard dans mon placard, Ovale (Québec, Canada), 1984.

Mon Potager, Ovale (Québec, Canada), 1985, translated as The Garden, Lorimer (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.


Stella, étoille de la mer, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1999, translated as Stella, Star of the Sea, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

Stella, reine des neiges, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 2000, translated as Stella, Queen of the Snow, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Stella, fée de forêts, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 2002, translated as Stella, Fairy of the Forest, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

Good Night Sam, Groundwood Books (Berkeley, CA), 2003.

Good Morning Sam, Groundwood Books (Berkeley, CA), 2003.

Stella, Princess of the Sky, Allen & Unwin (Crows Nest, New South Wales, Canada), 2004.

Que fais-tu, là, Sacha?, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 2006, translated as What Are You Doing, Sam?, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2006.


Bernard Gauthier, Hou Ilva (picture book), La Tamanoir (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1976.

Bernard Gauthier, Dou Ilvien (picture book; sequel to Hou Ilva), La Courte (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1978.

Bernard Gauthier, Hébert Lué (picture book; sequel to Dou Ilvien), La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1980.

Dennis Lee, Lizzy's Lion, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1984.

Tim Wynne-Jones, The Last Piece of Sky, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.

Don Gillmor, When Vegetables Go Bad!, Doubleday Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993, Firefly Books (Buffalo, NY), 1998.

Christiane Duchesne, Berthold & Lucrèce, Québec-Amerique Jeunesse (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1994.

Don Gillmor, The Fabulous Song, Stoddart (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1996, Kane-Miller (Brooklyn, NY), 1998.

Lucie Papineau, Monsier Soleil, Dominique et Cie. (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1997.

Sylvie Nicolas, Le beurre de Doudou, Héritage (Saint-Lambert, Québec, Canada), 1997.

Lois Wyse and Molly Rose Goldman, How to Take Your Grandmother to the Museum, Workman (New York, NY), 1998.

Don Gillmor, The Christmas Orange, Stoddart Kids (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998, General Distribution Services, 1999.

Susan Musgrave, Dreams Are More Real than Bathtubs, Orca Book Publishers (Custer, WA), 1999.

Don Gillmor, Yuck: A Love Story, Stoddart Kids (Dons Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Marilyn Singer, Didi and Daddy on the Promenade, Clarion (New York, NY), 2001.

David Homel, Travels with My Family, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.

James Howe, Houndsley and Catina, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

James Howe, Houndsley and Catina and the Birthday Surprise, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

Frieda Wishinsky, Please, Louise, Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.

Contributor of illustrations to books, including La vache et d'autres animaux, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1982, and Mother Goose: A Canadian Sampler, Groundwood (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994, and to periodicals, including Mother Jones, Psychology Today, and Saturday Night.


Louise Leblanc, Ça suffit, Sophie, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1990, translated as That's Enough, Maddie, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1990.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie lance et compte, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1991, translated as Maddie in Goal, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1991.

Louise Leblanc, Ça va mal pour Sophie, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1992, translated as Maddie Wants Music, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1993.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie part en voyage, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1993, translated as Maddie Goes to Paris, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1993.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie est en danger, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1994, translated as Maddie in Danger, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1994.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie fait des folies, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1995, translated as Maddie in Hospital, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1995.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie vit un cauchemar, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1996, translated as Sophie in Trouble, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1996.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie devient sage …, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1997, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie Tries to Be Good, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2000.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie prend le grands moyens, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1998, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie Wants New Clothes, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2001.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie veut vivre sa vie, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1999, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie Needs Her Own Life, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2001.

Louise Leblanc, Ca suffit, Sophie!, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1999.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie court apres la fortune, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 2001, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie's Millionaire Dreams, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2002.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie déouvre l'envers du décor, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 2001, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie on TV, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2003.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie part en orbite, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 2004, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie Surfs for Cyber-Pals, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2004.

Louise Leblanc Sophie est la honte de la famille, Diffusion du livre Mirabel (Saint-Laurent, Québec, Canada), 2005, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie's Big Test, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2005.

Louise Leblanc, Sophie défend les petits fantômes, La Courte Echelle (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 2005, translated by Sarah Cummins as Maddie Stands Tall, Formac (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2005.


Christiane Duschesne, Julia et le chef des Pois, Québec-Amerique Jeunesse (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1997.

Christiane Duschesne, Julia et les fantômes, Boreal (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 1999.

Christiane Duschesne, Julia et le voleur de nuit, Boreal (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 2000.

Christiane Duschesne, Julia et le premier cauchemar, Boreal (Montréal, Québec, Canada), 2001.


(Illustrator) Anne Taylor, Hands On: A Media Resource Book for Teachers (nonfiction) National Film Board of Canada (Montréal, Canada), 1977.

Graphic designer of Crapauds et autres animaux by Francine Tougas and others, 1981. Author and designer of puppet plays Bonne fête Willy, 1989; Qui a peur de Loulou?, 1993; and Le jardin de Babel, 1999, all produced in Québec, Canada.

Gay's books have been published in several languages, including Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, German, Portuguese, Greek, and Korean.


Well known in both French-and English-speaking Canada as an author and artist, Marie-Louise Gay is among her country's most prominent contemporary creators of children's literature. She directs her picture books—humorous, action-filled works as well as more-contemplative volumes—to youngsters ranging from preschool to the early primary grades. She has also provided the art for picture books and stories by writers as Dennis Lee, Tim Wynne-Jones, Don Gillmor, Susan Musgrave, James Howe, and Marilyn Singer, and has collaborated with writer Louise Leblanc on the popular "Sophie/Maddie" series. Introduced in books that highlight their author's originality, imagination, and an understanding of children and their world, Gay's young protagonists launch themselves into amazing adventures that transport them to such places as the sky or under the sea before they return home safely. While books such as Caramba! and her "Stella and Sam" picture books celebrate children's natural joyfulness and love of exuberant, often chaotic, play, other works by Gay depict the less-sunny parts of life, such as embarrassment,

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terror, loneliness, and the need for emotional support. Through both imaginative play and exploration of the world around them, her characters ultimately confront their fears and experience personal growth in engaging stories relayed in simple but lively prose and verse.

In her art Gay uses watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil, and collage, and she renders her characters in a cartoon-like style that stresses their large bodies, broad faces, tiny limbs, and spiked hair. In addition to the energy, freshness, and colorful, expressionistic quality of her art, she is also noted for her inventive page designs and distinctive use of perspective. Although sometimes faulted for creating books without morals or tales featuring questionable adult role models, Gay's works captivate young readers. Dubbing the author/illustrator "the mistress of ‘what-if’" in a Canadian Children's Literature review, Joan McGrath added that Gay's "perfect recall of a child's free-ranging, fresh-eyed delight coupled with the adult artistry to bring joyful fantasy to life … makes her work a nursery treasure." According to Quill & Quire contributor Janet McNaughton, "at her best, … Gay captures the whimsical side of childhood in a way that few author/illustrators can," and a St. James Guide to Children's Writers essayist dubbed the author/illustrator "one of Canada's foremost interpreters of young children's perceptions of important real and imaginary elements of their lives."

Born in French-speaking Québec City, Québec, Gay moved with her family to Oakville, Ontario, at age five and there taught herself to read—in English. "That was the beginning of my addiction to reading," she later admitted in a Something about the Author Autobiography Series (SAAS) essay. "With books, I could find friends wherever we went." At age seven the family moved again, this time to a more rural home in West Vancouver, British Columbia. During trips to the public library, Gay stocked up on books, fueling a passion for reading she has retained as an adult. As Gay admitted to Marie Davis for Canadian Children's Literature: "I am an avid reader—I need a fix. I have to read all the time. And I have been like that since I was five years old."

While living in Vancouver, Gay became involved in the amateur theatrical group where her parents both appeared. Starting with small stage roles, she eventually acted in the children's television series Tidewater Tramp and Friday Morning Series. However, as she recalled in SAAS, "after a heady year of stardom, our family moved again, back to Montréal. A promising career bit the dust."

In Montréal, Gay attended a French private school, but was not happy there. During her teens, reading became a refuge, particularly science fiction by authors such as C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin, and John Wyndham, as well as the novels of Colette, Lawrence Durrell, and Gabriel García Márquez. Gay also became interested in art, inspired "by a type of literature which came mainly from France and Belgium: la bande dessinée, illustrated albums, astonishing because of their innovative visual impact and highly humorous and intellectual content. I pored over these drawings and realize now that they had an enormous influence on my style of illustration." In school, she began to cover her notebooks with "all manner of strange cartoon creatures flying in between math equations, weaving in and out of grammar rules, skiing down equilateral triangles, or squashing chemistry problems to death." Sent to art school by her perceptive mother, Gay "stepped into another world. A world that suited me."

After leaving high school, Gay attended the Institute of Graphic Arts of Montréal, where she studied typography, perspective, and art history. Transferring to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts School, she discovered animation, drawing and painting a variety of creatures that starred in her animated films. A year later she successfully began marketing her art to magazines in order to finance her filmmaking and her school tuition. In the process, Gay explained, "I … learned two very important things: to be very critical about my own work and not to be afraid of throwing a drawing away and redoing it." At age twenty she married a fellow artist, but he tragically died three years later. Leaving Montréal, she moved to San Francisco and enrolled at the Academy of Arts College, where she studied anatomy, life drawing, portraits, and illustration techniques. During her three years there, Gay worked sporadically as an editorial illustrator, and also illustrated textbooks.

Returing to Montréal after graduation, Gay learned the ins and out of children's-book publishing through her job as art director and production manager of La Courte Echelle. Her first illustration work came when she provided art for three French-language children's books by Bernard Gauthier. In 1981 she produced her first original self-illustrated book, De zéro à minuit. Her second, the picture book La soeur de Robert, won the Alvine-Belisle Prize for best French-Canadian picture book, while her "Drôle d'école" board-book series won the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize in illustration. Gay was propelled to national attention through her work for Lizzy's Lion, a picture book in verse by well-known Canadian poet Dennis Lee. Because of the story, in which a hungry lion gobbles up a burglar, the work became one of the most censored books in Canada. Reviewing Lizzy's Lion for Books in Canada, Mary Ainslie Smith called Gay's illustrations "funny and eccentric," while John Bemrose concluded in Maclean's that her "mischievously exaggerated" interpretation of Lee's story "prevent sober judgment from spoiling the fun." Gay's illustrations for Lizzy's Lion earned the Canada Council Literature Prize in illustration for an English-language book in 1984, the same year she won for her "Drôle d'école" series. Her joint win of this coveted prize made her the first author to receive this award in both the French-language and English language categories. Most of Gay's books are now published in both English and French editions.

Among Gay's other award-winning original picture books are Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear, Rainy Day Magic, Caramba, and On My Island. In the rhyming text of Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear Rose and Toby Toby lasso and ride the moon before being driven back inside by a thunderstorm. A popular story, the book was reissued in 1986, winning Gay the Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award. A reviewer for the Children's Book News called the original version "a lovely book" possessing "all the elements of a classic picturebook," while Books in Canada reviewer Rhea Tregebov cited the interplay of layout, text, and illustrations in the revision as "not merely coherent, but brilliant," and described Gay's text as "marvelous poetry" in which the "use of rhyme and metre is so effective that the words have an inevitable feel to them, a hypnotic effect that only such poets as Dennis Lee and Gay seem able to create."

In the award-winning Rainy Day Magic, friends Victor and Joey use their imaginations to transport themselves to the jungle and under the sea after being sent to the

basement by their parents as punishment for being too loud. When the children are called back upstairs for dinner, Joey sports a mauve starfish in her hair, a souvenir of her aquatic adventure. Another story that brings to life the travails of childhood unfolds in Caramba, as a small kitten learns to accept his limitations as well as his differences. While older cats can fly—at least their graceful leaps look that way to little Caramba—the young kitten's efforts to mimic their actions only find him face down and embarrassed. Ultimately the support of best-friend Portia the Pig and an accidental dunking reveals Caramba's special ability: unlike most kitties, he is unafraid of water. Calling Gay's feline protagonist "a charmingly self-deprecating cutie," a Publishers Weekly reviewer also praised the author/illustrator's "dreamy, gossamer watercolors," while Resource Links critic Lori Lavalle predicted that, with its "imaginative and unpredictable storyline," Caramba "is sure to become a classic."

The title character in Fat Charlie's Circus wants to be a famous circus performer when he grows up. The ambitious and resourceful lad is soon practicing stunts at home: lion-taming with his cat, walking the clothesline for a tightrope, training his goldfish to jump through a hoop, and juggling dinner plates. Unfortunately, the chaos resulting from the boy's practice causes Fat Charlie's parents to become upset. Hoping to assure them that his training is not in vain, Charlie decides to perform a diving act: he intends to jump from the tallest tree in his backyard into a tiny glass of water. Once he is in the tree, however, the boy realizes that he is too scared to dive. He is also too scared to come down from the tree. Crestfallen and in a predicament, the boy is rescued by his loving grandmother, who climbs the tree with the claim that she intends to jump with Charlie. When she becomes fearful of the same jump from the lofty height, Charlie retains his dignity by helping the older woman down. Reviewing Fat Charlie's Circus in Canadian Children's Literature, Marie Davis commented that the book has "an unusual depth—both in the carefully-shaded illustrations and the subtlety of the text," while Canadian Review of Materials contributor Alison Mews called it a "wonderful story that begs to be shared with children."

In the picture book On My Island Gay transports readers to a small island where a young boy and his animal companions—three ants, two cats, a wolf, and a bat—live, surrounded by the sea. Although the boy complains that his life is boring, readers can see the fantastic events taking place all around him: a dragon swims past, colorful kites climb into the sky, giant elephants parachute, canonball-like, into the water, and a train circles the island. As readers are gleefully aware, the bored young boy and his friends are always looking the other way when such amazing activities take place. In her watercolor-and-collage illustrations, Gay incorporates flower petals, fabrics, and bits of newspaper, and her use of font size takes on different configurations depending on the level of activity—for example, when the narrator shouts over a stiff wind, the text is huge. As Booklist contributor Carolyn Phelan wrote of On My Island, "the short, direct text, the well-composed double-page spreads, and the abundance of action in the illustrations combine" in a "satisfying and enjoyable" picture book. In School Library Journal, Holly Belli noted that, while it may be parents who appreciate the irony of Gay's tale, "children will pore over the pictures and imagine islands of their own."

Inspired by her childhood memories, Gay's "Sam and Stella" picture-book series—which includes Stella, Starof the Sea, Stella, Queen of the Snow, Good Night, Sam, and What Are You Doing, Sam?—have brought her special recognition. In the award-winning series opener, Stella, Star of the Sea, red-headed Stella and her younger brother, Sam, spend a day at the seashore. Sam is afraid of the water but curious about it. Since Stella had been to the beach once before, she helpfully answers his many questions with replies that blend realism with imagination, and encourage Sam in entering the water. As with her other books, Gay incorporates

watercolor and collage in her detailed illustrations, creating what a Publishers Weekly critic described as "an air of holiday abandon." In Canadian Review of Materials, Helen Norrie predicted of the book that "children will identify with the reluctant Sam and enjoy both his questions and Stella's answers."

The adventures of the two siblings continue in Stella, Queen of the Snow, as Sam experiences his first snowstorm and asks question after question about it. Big sister Stella, the self-proclaim Queen of the Snow, an-

swers Sam's queries with her characteristically humorous mix of fantasy and fact. The children eat snowflakes, have a snowball fight, and make snow angels, among other activities, and by story's end Sam assures Stella that he can hear the snow angels singing. Good Morning, Sam and Good Night, Sam find the toddler learning to get dressed and undressed, and prepare for bed, all with the help of sister Stella as well as the family dog. Stella, Princess of the Sky finds the siblings outside contemplating the night sky, as Sam wonders out loud where the Sun sleeps and how the Moon rises up so high. A journey into a nearby woodland in search of the tiny fairies Stella assures her brother are under every leaf and twig is the focus of Stella, Fairy of the Forest, which School Library Journal contributor Mary Elam dubbed "a visual treasure for reading aloud."

Writing in School Library Journal, Grace Oliff called Stella, Queen of the Snow "a charming story of successful sibling mentoring, simply but effectively told" in which Gay's line-and-watercolor illustrations "complement both the humor and the message of the tale." In a review of Good Morning, Sam for School Library Journal, Martha Topol noted that in the "Stella and Sam" books Gay introduces "sweet, enduring characters who are bound to strike a familiar chord with readers," and Booklist contributor Stephanie Zvirin maintained that the "freewheeling ink-and-watercolor illustrations are delightful." According to School Library Journal writer Lisa Gangemi, a tale full of "charm and whimsy" is recounted in Stella, Princess of the Night Sky, and Zoe Johnstone wrote in her Resource Links review of the same book that Gay's illustrations "express energy, movement, and wonder." In Horn Book Jennifer Brabander noted of the ‘Stella and Sam" books that Gay's "skillful interplay of text and art showcases [her] … agility in allowing both words and pictures to tell the story."

In addition to original stories, Gay has illustrated her retelling of several familiar stories. The Three Little Pigs incorporates several techniques used in oral storytelling, such as colloquial expressions and asides to the audience. Discussing Gay's watercolor illustrations for the work, Joanne Findon wrote in Quill & Quire that the images "are filled with colour and energy," and that "small details—leaves flying and raindrops blowing out of the illustrations and across the adjacent white spaces—create a satisfying sense of the oneness of words and pictures." Findon concluded by calling The Three Little Pigs a "lovely book that breathes life into a well-known tale." Gay's version of Rumpelstiltskin has received similar praise for the originality of its presentation. As Dave Jenkinson noted in Canadian Review of Materials, the author/illustrator's "text and illustrations soften the story for the intended audience," and School Library Journal contributor Jeanne Clancy Watkins concluded that, "in this age of the lavishly illustrated fairy tale, Gay gives readers a version of the well-worn Grimm tale that is surprisingly and refreshingly childlike." Rumpelstiltskin was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for illustration in 1997.

While working as a professional author and illustrator, Gay met her life partner, David Homel, an award-winning American writer and translator. The couple's two sons, Gabriel and Jacob, have served as the inspiration for several of Gay's original stories. In Travels with My Family she and Homel collaborate on one such a story, as their young narrator recounts a family road trip through North America and Mexico. While the boy and his younger brother vote for the proverbial trip to Disneyland, Mom and Dad decide to explore the region via alternate routes that result in a series of mishaps, adventures, and surprising discoveries. Noting that Travels with My Family is written in "simple language and adorned with amusing cartoon sketches," School Li-brary Journal contributor Corinda J. Humphrey cited the chapter book as "a good choice" for less-experienced readers, while Shelle Rosenfeld noted in Booklist that the "droll, first-person" perspective of the book's young narrator is "often comical and sometimes suspenseful."

In addition to creating picture books, Gay has illustrated textbooks and posters, designed children's clothing and sets for animated films, and also written three puppet plays for Québec's Theatre de l'oeil that featured original puppets, costumes, and sets. In addition to teaching illustration to students at the university level, she is also a regular speaker at schools and in conferences on children's literature. As she once told SATA: "I feel that I'm concentrating on a particular medium because it's for kids. I am geared towards kids in what I want to talk about to them and how to make them laugh, whether in clothing design, in the plays, or in the books. I'm happy about that. I finally got to where I don't have to worry about the rush of the adult world and the quick throwaway feeling you have."

Regarding her work as an author/illustrator, Gay wrote in an essay for SAAS: "When I write and illustrate for children, my primary concern is to tell a good story, a story that will capture their heart and minds. I want to create characters and emotional situations that children will recognize. I want children to identify with the joy, anger, frustration, laughter, fear, loneliness, doubt, and happiness of my characters. I accomplish this in two ways: the first, of course, is the story itself, which in most cases is inspired by an ordinary event, a domestic situation…. The other way to ensure emotional identification is through illustration. I want children to identify visually with my characters. That's why I've created a series of rather funny-looking kids … not particularly pretty kids, but real kids!" "When I hear people (adults, of course) saying that children are more interested in videos, electronic games and so on, and that books will disappear altogether in a few decades, I do not believe it for one minute," Gay added. "What's disappearing is the time to read books, the time to tell stories. Children are naturally curious, open to new ideas, ready to trade reality for fiction. They are still open to other ways of thinking, their prejudices yet to come. If children are exposed to a wide range of books, reading will eventually become an important aspect of their lives. I, for my part, will continue writing for them."

Biographical and Critical Sources


St. James Guide to Children's Writers, fifth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Something about the Author Autobiography Series, Volume 21, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Booklist, March 15, 2001, Carolyn Phelan, review of On My Island, p. 1403; April 1, 2001, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Didi and Daddy on the Promenade, p. 1480; March 15, 2002, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Stella, Fairy of the Forest, p. 1261; March 15, 2003, Todd Morning, review of Good Morning, Sam, p. 1331; October 1, 2005, John Peters, review of Caramba, p. 62; May 15, 2006, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Travels with My Family, p. 45; September 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of What Are You Doing, Sam?, p. 135.

Books in Canada, December, 1984, Mary Ainslie Smith, review of Lizzy's Lion, p. 12; summer, 1992, Rhea Tregebov, review of Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear, p. 37.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2002, review of Stella, Fairy of the Forest, p. 240; September, 2003, Janice Del Negro, review of Good Night, Sam, p. 13; October, 2004, Hope Morrison, review of Stella, Princess of the Sky, p. 73; September, 2006, Maggie Hommel, review of Houndsley and Catina, p. 19.

Canadian Children's Literature, number 54, 1989, Joan McGrath, review of Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear, pp. 67-69; number 59, 1990, Marie Davis, "The Fantastic and the Familiar in Fat Charlie's Circus," pp. 75-77.

Children's Book News, June, 1986, review of Moonbeam on a Cat's Ear, p. 4.

Canadian Review of Materials, March, 1989, Leacy O'Brien, interview with Gay, pp. 54-55; March, 1990, Alison Mews, review of Fat Charlie's Circus, p. 64; November 28, 1997, Dave Jenkinson, review of Rumpelstiltskin; November 28, 1999, Helen Norrie, review of Stella, Star of the Sea.

Horn Book, July-August, 2003, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of Good Morning, Sam, p. 442; January-February, 2006, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of Caramba, p. 68.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2003, review of Good Night, Sam, p. 1123; August 15, 2005, review of Caramba, p. 914; March 15, 2006, review of Houndsley and Catina, p. 292.

Maclean's, December 10, 1984, John Bemrose and others, review of Lizzy's Lion, pp. 62-63.

Publishers Weekly, July 28, 1997, review of Rumpelstiltskin, p. 74; March 29, 1999, review of Stella, Star of the Sea, p. 102; November 20, 2000, review of Yuck: A Love Story, p. 67; February 12, 2001, review of Didi and Daddy on the Promenade, p. 210; March 26, 2001, review of On My Island, p. 92; September 1, 2003, review of Good Night, Sam, p. 91; October 10, 2005, review of Caramba, p. 59.

Quill & Quire, December, 1989, Callie Israel, review of Fat Charlie's Circus, p. 22; number 60, 1990, Marie Davis, interview with Gay, pp. 52-74; December, 1993, Janet McNaughton, review of Rabbit Blue, p. 33; October, 1994, Joanne Findon, review of The Three Little Pigs, p. 41.

Resource Links, February, 2005, Zoe Johnstone, review of Stella, Princess of the Sky, p. 4; February, 2006, Lori Lavallee, review of Caramba, p. 3; October, 2006, Moira Kirkpatrick, review of Travels with My Family, p. 10.

School Library Journal, November, 1997, Jeanne Clancy Watkins, review of Rumpelstiltskin, p. 107; October, 2000, Grace Oliff, review of Stella, Queen of the Snow, p. 125; July, 2001, Holly Belli, review of On My Island, p. 75; June, 2002, Mary Elam, review of Stella, Fairy of the Forest, p. 96; April, 2003, Martha Topol, review of Good Morning, Sam, p. 1331; November, 2003, Marge Loch-Wouters, review of Good Night, Sam, p. 94; October, 2004, Lisa Gangemi, review of Stella, Princess of the Sky, p. 113; September, 2006, Maryann H. Owen, review of What Are You Doing, Sam?, p. 171; October, 2006, Maren Ostergard, review of The Fabulous Song, p. 77; November, 2006, Julie Roach, review of Caramba, p. 120.


Canadian Children's Book Centre Web site, (June 29, 2001), "Marie-Louise Gay."

Groundwood Books Web site, (June 9, 2007), "Authors: Marie-Louise Gay."

National Library of Canada, (June 28, 2001), "Cartoon Art: Marie-Louise Gay."


Meet the Author/Illustrator: Marie-Louise Gay (video), School Services of Canada, 1991.

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