Mourlevat, Jean–Claude 1952-

views updated

Mourlevat, Jean-Claude 1952-


Born February 22, 1952, in Ambert, France; son of a miller and a homemaker; married; wife's name Rachel.


Home—Saint-Étienne, France. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer. Has also worked as a teacher, clown, and mime in France and Germany.


Prix Sorcières, and Hans Christian Andersen Honor designation, International Board on Books for Young People, both 2000, both for L'enfant océan; Prix des Incorruptibles, 2000, for Le jeune loup qui n'avait pas de nom, and 2002, for La rivière à l'envers; Mildred L. Batchelder Award, and Notable Children's Book selection, American Library Association, both 2007, both for The Pull of the Ocean.


Histoire de l'enfant et de l'oeuf, illustrated by Fabienne Teyssèdre, Mango (Paris, France), 1997.

Kolos et les quatre voleurs, illustrated by Isabelle Chatelard, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1998.

Le jeune loup qui n'avait pas de nom, illustrated by Jean-Luc Bénazet, Milan (Toulouse, France), 1998.

La balafre, illustrated by Christian Heinrich, Pocket (Paris, France), 1998.

A comme voleur, illustrated by Christian Heinrich, Pocket (Paris, France), 1998.

L'enfant océan, illustrated by Christian Heinrich, Pocket (Paris, France), 1998, translated by Y. Maudet as The Pull of the Ocean, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2006.

Le voyage de Zoé, illustrated by Sofi, Larousse Bordas (Paris, France), 1999.

Les billes du diable, illustrated by Jean-François Martin, Nathan (Paris, France), 2000.

La rivière à l'envers: Tomek, illustrated by Marc Taraskoff, Pocket (Paris, France), 2000.

Le petit royaume, illustrated by Nicole Claveloux, Mango (Paris, France), 2000.

La rivière à l'envers: Hannah, illustrated by Marc Taraskoff, Pocket (Paris, France), 2002.

L'homme qui ne possédait rien, Thierry Magnier (Paris, France), 2002.

L'homme à l'oreille coupée, Thierry Magnier (Paris, France), 2003.

La troisième vengeance de Robert Poutifard, illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2003.

L'homme qui levait les pierres, Thierry Magnier (Paris, France), 2004.

La balade de Cornebique, illustrated by Béatrice Alemagna, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2004.

Sous le grand banian, illustrated by Nathalie Novi, Rue du Monde (Paris, France), 2005.

Le combat d'hiver, illustrated by Henri Galeron, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2006.

Je voudrais rentrer à la maison (autobiography), Editions Arléa (Paris, France), 2006.

La prodigieuse aventure de Tillmann Ostergrimm, illustrated by Marcelino Truong, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2007.


Jo Pestum, Zorro Circus, Pocket (Paris, France), 1998.

Klaus Gordon, Robinson et Juliette, Pocket (Paris, France), 1998.

Monica Dittrich, Bon voyage petit ours!, Jeux d'Aujourd'hui, 2000.

Rolf Fänger and Ulrike Möltgen, L'ours et la lune, Jeux d'Aujourd'hui, 2000.

Michael Ende, Jim Bouton et Lucas, le chauffeur de locomotive, illustrated by Gaëtan Doremus, Bayard (Paris, France), 2004.


French novelist, translator, and short-story writer Jean-Claude Mourlevat is the author of the critically acclaimed young-adult novel The Pull of the Ocean. Mourlevat's first work published in English translation, the novel is a contemporary take on Charles Perrault's classic fairy tale "Tom Thumb." In Mourlevat's hands, that traditional tale is reconfigured in The Pull of the Ocean, resulting in what Horn Book contributor Sarah Ellis described as "a powerful portrait of poverty and sibling solidarity, at once tragic and oddly joyful."

Mourlevat was born in Ambert, France, the fifth of six children. Along with his father, a miller who produced grain for the local bakeries, his mother, and his siblings, Mourlevat helped tend the family farm, where they raised cows, pigs, rabbits, and hens. A good student, he developed an interest in literature and often read Le Journal de Spirou, a weekly Belgian comics magazine. Discussing his growing love of books, Mourlevat noted on his home page that the first novel that particularly struck his imagination was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. Among his favorite authors are Franz Kafka, Paul Auster, Miguel de Cervantès, Molière, Carlo Collodi, and Samuel Beckett.

Mourlevat, who has worked as a teacher, a clown, and a mime in France and Germany, began writing in 1996 at the request of a friend. When three of his stories were published in less than a year, he decided to pursue a career as an author. His first book, Histoire de l'enfant et de l'oeuf, appeared in France in 1997. Three years later he produced L'enfant océan, which received the Prix Sorcières and was subsequently translated from the French and released to English-language readers as The Pull of the Ocean.

In The Pull of the Ocean, Mourlevat tells the story of diminutive Yann Doutreleau, a ten-year-old mute boy, and Yann's six older brothers. When the boy overhears his parents arguing one stormy night, he becomes convinced that his father is planning to kill all seven of his sons. Yann gathers his brothers—three sets of twins—and silently convinces them to flee from their family home. As the unkempt and impoverished group journey across the French countryside on their way to the coast, they encounter a host of colorful characters, including a kindhearted trucker and a malevolent businessman.

The Pull of the Ocean earned strong reviews, and a number of critics praised Mourlevat's decision to tell his tale from multiple points of view. "The prose is nightmarish but occasionally lovely," wrote a contributor in Kirkus Reviews, and Michael Cart observed in Booklist that "the story is intriguing, and the relationship among the brothers is heartwarming." According to a critic in Publishers Weekly, Mourlevat "enchantingly blends the harshly real and the make-believe, with the latter tipping the balance as this effectively haunting, fluidly translated tale comes to a close." Writing in School Library Journal, Robyn Gioia called The Pull of the Ocean "a memorable novel that readers will find engaging and intellectually satisfying."



Booklist, December 1, 2006, Michael Cart, review of The Pull of the Ocean, p. 48.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2006, review of The Pull of the Ocean, p. 1123.

Publishers Weekly, January 1, 2007, review of The Pull of the Ocean, p. 51.

School Library Journal, January, 2007, Robyn Gioia, review of The Pull of the Ocean, p. 134.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 14, 2007, Mary Harris Russell, review of The Pull of the Ocean, p. 7.


Jean-Claude Mourlevat Home Page, (February 1, 2008).