Marie-Louise Gay, Any questions?, Allen & Unwin, April 2015, 60pp., $17.99 (hbk), ISBN 978 1 76011 317 9
Marie-Louise Gay is a well-known Canadian writer and illustrator who has been nominated for both the Astrid Lindgren award and the Hans Christian Andersen medal. This brilliant picture book has come about from all the author visits she has done in schools and libraries. The second double-page spread shows a gaggle of children all with speech bubbles containing a diverse range of questions from the personal (What is your favourite colour?) to the ones based on her previous books (Are you Stella?) For the rest of the book, she attempts to answer these questions and in so doing try to explain the creative writing process.
After stating that “If you stare long enough at a blank piece of paper, anything can happen …”, she then goes on to suggest what it could become and has child characters adding their ideas. She expands on this with asking what if the paper were yellow? Sometimes a story starts with a word or an idea and sometimes her mind is a blank. Or she has an idea which doesn’t fit into the particular story she is working on.
The book then contains a story within the book called “The shy young giant” which ends mid-sentence and the author tells the reader that “it’s your turn!” The giant story continues with the twists and turns suggested by the characters and the book ends with the children heading off to start another story.
This lesson in creative writing and illustrating is very child-focussed and child-friendly. There is a lot of humour in the speech bubbles throughout the illustrations and in the details of the pictures. For example, one child character says “How come you don’t know? You’re the author!” The layout, design and use of white space is excellent and this larger-than usual format could easily be used in a group or classroom situation. Highly recommended.
reviewed by Lynne Babbage