Let’s meet courageous, creative Claudette by Helene Magisson

  • Published on July 30, 2021

interview with Helene Magisson author and illustrator of Claudette

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Claudette, the beautiful new picture book written and illustrated by Helene Magisson, published by Red Paper Kite. While Helene has illustrated many other picture books, this is the first that she has both written and illustrated.

I have previously introduced you to Helene’s gorgeous artwork when interviewing her about Magic Fish Dreaming, a collection of poems by June Perkins and Sarah’s Two Nativities by Janine M Fraser. Please refer back to those posts to find out more about her beautiful artwork.

About Helene Magisson

Helene Magisson author and illustrator

Helene Magisson is an award-winning illustrator. She started her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, where she was also trained in the art of medieval illumination.
Helene has lived in Africa, France and India. She is now settled down in Australia with her family. She has illustrated more than 15 books and has collaborated with major Australian publishers.
Recent awards include:
• Claudette, her first book as an author-illustrator, has been longlisted in the Australia Books Industry Awards 2021
• Little Puggle’s Song written by Vikki Conley, CBCA 2020 Notable Picture Book of the Year
• Slowly! Slowly! written by T.M. Clark, CBCA 2018 Notable Picture Book of the Year

About Claudette 

Loutka is a brilliant puppet maker. All of his creations work perfectly, just as he expects them to. Except for Claudette. She is a rickety misfit who longs for freedom and adventure. What can be done with such a puppet? Loutka doesn’t know.
So Claudette stays on the shelf. Until one incredible day…

Claudette takes the reader on a courageous and magical adventure beyond the clouds, discovering the power of beauty, possibility and self-worth along the way.

‘A book infused with magic!’ – Megan Daley, Children’s Books Daily

Longlisted in the Australia Books Industry Awards 2021

The Interview

Helene, we’ve met you before as an illustrator of beautiful picture books. Now we are talking to you as an author-illustrator.

What gave you the idea for this delightful story of the extraordinary puppet Claudette?

interview with Helene Magisson author and illustrator of Claudette

During all my childhood, I have been nourished by traditional tales. They fed my imagination, enriched my culture and gave me the taste for wonder. Obviously, they influenced me to create Claudette, but I also wanted to give the story a touch of modernity by introducing Loutka’s character, a young puppeteer with a trendy look, as well as Claudette’s freedom of spirit.

Also, the puppets’ world and the creation of such objects have always fascinated me. It is amazing to imagine a character, to craft it in 3D and then make it evolve in space while hanging from its threads. I was able to experience this while making my own little puppet Claudette, and I have to admit that something magical happened when she started to quiver into motion. You might not believe me, but she winked at me and smiled (but that’s a secret).

Lastly, I like the concept of freedom (especially freedom of thoughts) which seems essential to me in life. So I thought a puppet would be a great tool to convey this topic.

What came first — the illustrations or the story?

One day, Claudette appeared on my desk. Or maybe, it was in a dream? Then the story emerged instantly. It all came together. I think it is difficult to separate the words from the illustrations. The text finishes where the images start and vice versa.

The story is about an artist, a puppet-maker named Loutka, and a storyteller, the puppet Claudette. You have combined your talents as storyteller and artist to tell this story. Was that intentional when planning your story?

interview with Helene Magisson author and illustrator of Claudette

I did not think of creating a parallel between Claudette’s story and me, but for sure the atmosphere that emanates from any workshop really inspires me. I think I have always been attracted by all kinds of workshops and their creators. It could be a workshop of a luthier or a miniaturist or a tailor… There is so much that can be created inside a workshop. It is much more than just a room. To me, it is an entire universe where the imagination can be very prolific. A fantastic source of inspiration to write stories.

When did you know you wanted to write your own stories as well as illustrate the stories of others?

I have always liked writing in French (my mother tongue) and always loved the world of children’s books as well, since I can read. It is a fantastic world, very rich and imaginative, but it wasn’t until I settled down in Australia, that I started illustrating. Then after a few years, gaining more experience into this art, I felt ready to break the language barrier and just started writing.

The book contains some illustrations of your sketches in progress. Can you tell us a little about the illustrations, your process, and your purpose for including the sketches?

interview with Helene Magisson author and illustrator of Claudette

We decided with Sandra Van Doorn (Red Paper Kite’s founder and publisher) to keep some sketches in the internals to convey the idea that we are somewhere between reality and imagination. Also, it is a way to leave more space to the illustrations and the creative process in the book, which can be inspiring to young readers.

The sketches are one of the most interesting parts of creating a picture book. We develop the whole story and all our characters in our sketches. So we felt natural to leave some of those in the book. Also sketches are usually spontaneous, they can bring this touch of freedom that we wanted to convey in this picture book.

What do you like best about Claudette? Are you most proud of the story or the illustrations?

I am proud of the whole project as one and unique object. I could not separate these two aspects from the book. They have been created and imagined together.

How did you feel when you were writing and illustrating Claudette?

I felt free. Free in my style, free to decide how I wanted this book to be. It was amazing to work with Sandra Van Doorn as I felt her creativity and ideas nourished this freedom. It was truly inspiring to work with her.

How do you hope readers will feel?

I hope they will feel like entering in a different world, a world of creativity. I hope that they will feel the beauty and the power of imagination.

How would you like teachers to present Claudette to children? Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?

interview with Helene Magisson author and illustrator of Claudette

I would like them to highlight the topic of freedom. Like Claudette, try to tell the children that it is necessary to look outside to enrich our mind, to nourish our imagination and ideas, because our freedom starts there.

Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?

Give our children the love of books. Encourage them to read, read a lot. I am sure this is the start to train our future writers.

What about for encouraging young artists?

Discover, learn and get to know the greatest painters who have marked the different eras of the history of art. Try also to discover the work of illustrators from all around the world.

Do you have any advice for children as writers?

interview with Helene Magisson author and illustrator of Claudette

Read a lot, be curious, and always enrich your world.

What about as young artists?

Observe, draw, be curious and be passionate.

What author or illustrator do you feel has been most influential upon your journey as an author-illustrator?

Honestly, I think it would be far too long to cite them all. There are so many who have inspired me so far. For sure, legends, fables and classical tales from Europe will always inspire me for their richness. And I could also mention many creators who represent so beautifully this strong and unique Australian identity with stories full of charm and so close to nature.

thank you writers and illustrators for sharing information about your books and your creative process

Helene, thank you so much for sharing with us your inspiration for writing Claudette and information about your process of writing and illustrating. I especially appreciate the messages about creativity and freedom, and that there is a place for each of us to shine, even if we’re not perfect in every way. It is impossible to not fall in love with Claudette when reading her courageous and adventurous story. As always, your artwork is beautiful, and Claudette’s heart is just as beautiful.

Watch this behind-the-scenes look at Helene’s artwork for Claudette.

Find out more about Helene Magisson

On her website: https://www.helenemagisson.com/

Or connect with her on social media

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenemagisson/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Helene-Magisson-Artist-725042790863996/

Purchase your own copy of Claudette:

From Booktopia

Red Paper Kite

Follow this link for Teachers Resources supporting Claudette:

Claudette Teacher Resources

Look for these other books illustrated by Helene Magisson.

books illustrated by Helene Magisson

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    I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Helena, her art and her book Claudette. It was so interesting to read how she conceptualised the narrative and Claudette. It was very inventive, creative and cute of her to make a little puppet and that grew into her art and characters. I really like the purpose behind the in progress sketches. While unfinished, it gives raw insight into the process of being creative, and there isn’t really any silly idea.

    Helena’s writing process made me think of my own. When I write and try to put a story together, there is a lot of experimenting and trying out different things, and quite often my stories come together all of a sudden.

    Thank you for you thoughtful and kind words about Helene’s work and book, Mabel. Helene is very creative and has captured something very special in this book. I’m pleased reading about her process resonated with you and your own creative process.

    Helene’s book does sound very special. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful writers and educational resources with us, Norah 🙂

    Norah and Helene, I enjoyed the conversation about imagination. Art in progress shows how we are in that space between reality and imagination. Such depth and emotion in the illustrations. I really enjoyed Claudette!

    Claudette is just one of those beautiful books that speaks directly to the heart, Charli. She’s totally captivating.

    I have always loved Helene’s illustrations. They have a touch of magic to them and this book is superb.

    I adore this lady’s work on every level. Beautiful interview too. 🙂 Thank you.

    It is, Robbie. I have always loved Helene’s artwork and this story is just delightful.

    Helene’s artwork is absolutely beautiful. I love her style and it is so exciting to how creatively she has approached this author-illustrator project. It’s pure delight.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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