Just as we’ve experienced the shift from summer to fall, one new children’s book talks about a similar natural metamorphosis. The book, Monarch! Monarch! Where Are You Flying To? (Monarque! Monarque! Vers où voles-tu?) is written and illustrated by Claude Bégin. Claude is a Sandy Hill resident and a part-time contract instructor, often at Francojeunesse.
The 32-page picture book was written for children aged four and older. Bégin told IMAGE a little more about the book and why he chose to write about the beautiful monarch butterfly.
This is your first children’s picture book. What made you want to write it?
For a long time I juggled with the idea of writing a children’s picture book. About a year and a half ago, I felt it was time to take on a new challenge.
Although the book contains valuable information for the child to learn (the four stages in the life cycle of a butterfly, the names of animals and of some flowers, the times of the day and the days of the week, the ordinal and cardinal numbers, etc.), it is not intended to be didactic. I just want the magic of transformation to be simple for children to follow.
The story talks about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Why did you choose a monarch as the main character?
The different life stages of the monarch butterfly are a good example, metaphorically speaking, of a child growing up. As the tiny egg grows into a small caterpillar, the infant will grow to become a child. As the small caterpillar grows into a larger one, the child will grow to become a hungry teenager. And then, as the larger caterpillar goes through the stages of a chrysalis to a dazzling butterfly, the teenager will go through significant changes that will turn him into a fully developed adult.
Your illustrations are really beautiful! Tell us about the style of the book’s illustrations.
I start my illustration by painting large tissue papers with acrylic paint. Then I sketch on regular paper some rough ideas of the main characters, plants, flowers, etc. Afterwards, based on my sketches, I start to cut out different sections of the coloured tissue papers to match my sketches. These sections are assembled onto cardboard, one by one, using paper glue. There can be many glued sections on just one page. For example, in the illustration depicting the tiny egg on a milkweed plant, I counted over 100 pieces of cut out coloured tissue papers.
Did you draw any inspiration from our Sandy Hill neighbourhood?
Walking and cycling are usually my main means of urban transportation. These modes of getting around offer me plenty of time to look, see, observe, smell, touch, and hear what Mother Nature has to offer. As a daily passerby in the vicinity of the Rideau River adjacent to Strathcona Park/Adàwe Crossing, the abundant variety of wildlife is a delight for my senses.
Several of the animals that children will discover in my book have been spotted in and around Sandy Hill. I even saw a doe once, strayed and disoriented, by the bike path along the Rideau River near the new uOttawa building on Lees Avenue. And although there is a bear in my story, I have not seen one yet in the neighbourhood and don’t wish to encounter one either.
Thanks to Claude for taking the time to introduce us to his book! The English version of Monarch! Monarch! Where Are You Flying To? is available for loan as an eBook with the Ottawa Public Library (via the OverDrive platform), with the French version coming soon. The eBook is also available for purchase through Apple, Kobo, and soon, Amazon (search for the book title and Claude’s name). Claude is currently seeking a publisher for the print version of the book.