Thursday, June 15, 2017

Q&A with Véronique Massenot

Véronique Massenot is the author of the new children's picture book The Dreaming Giant, which is based on the work of the artist Wassily Kandinsky. Her other books include The Three Musicians and The Great Wave. She lives in France.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your book The Dreaming Giant?

A: I started to write books around famous masterpieces of art nine years ago with my French publisher, L'Élan Vert. The Dreaming Giant is my eighth picture book published in this collection.

I always begin with a lot of research about the artist's life and work. Science was an important point of interest for Kandinsky with some big questions about links between material and spiritual world, brain and soul, human being, life and creation…

Then I tried to imagine a story in this way. Even if I have to remember that I am writing for little children, of course.

Q: Have you always been interested in the work of Kandinsky?

A: Yes. I can't say he was my favorite painter but he always interested me because he was the first abstract artist and a great art theoretician too.

Working on his life and art was very instructive and made me discover a lot of things. This is why I really do like to write for this collection!

Q: What impact do you think Peggy Nille's illustrations had on the book?

A: Peggy Nille's illustrations have a great impact on the book - and I hope on the readers too. She also did a lot of research and looked at a large number of his artworks. That is why some of her pictures are so close to Kandinsky's spirit.

Actually, I did the same on my side: I wrote some parts of the story thinking about several specific paintings. When the three little heroes are travelling across in the heart of the giant, for example. And when I sent the text to my publisher, I gave her my paintings of reference too, for Peggy.

Q: What do you think your readers will take away from the book?

A: First, I hope they will enjoy the story as a really funny adventure … I think that the humor of my text is well translated into English. And I hope it also sounds a little bit poetic too. I have tried asking some deep questions in a light way without being boring at all.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am working on another great artist but I can't tell you yet on who. It is too early, sorry! For the moment we don't know if we will have the permission to write and publish a Pont des Arts picture book about this artist.

But my next one, the one I wrote during these last few months, is finished and I think my French readers will very soon find it in their favorite bookshops.

This one tells the story of Pierre Larousse, a very famous French lexicographer. His life, especially his childhood, inspired me a lot: he was a Burgundy native, just like me.

[He had] all that love and curiosity for the things that make life better – links with nature, science observations, artwork, funny language subtleties and … good cuisine, of course. He was tasting the words as much as delicious meals and was a great modern pedagogue.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: The Dreaming Giant is my eighth picture book of the collection (Pont des Arts in French) and the fifth translated into English by Prestel.

My previous titles are Journey on a Cloud about Chagall, The Great Wave about Hokusai, The Three Musicians about Picasso and The Mermaid andthe Parakeet about Matisse. I hope the young American readers will enjoy it all!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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