22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Michèle Lemieux

Portrait Michèle Lemieux
© Hartwig Klappert

“This book is like a dialogue, an open door between our childhood world and the world of adults. I wanted to let the world be seen through the eyes of this young girl who wonders about a very simple experience: existence!” This is what Michèle Lemieux has to say about her picture book ‘Gewitternacht’ (Engl: Stormy Night, 1999), which was published in Germany in 1996. The Canadian illustrator, author, lecturer and director was born in Québec. After completing a degree in visual arts in Montreal, she lived in Germany for five years at the end of the 1970’s. Since 1978 she has published fifteen books, which she both illustrated and wrote. They have been translated, filmed and put on stage in more than twenty languages.

In ‘Gewitternacht’, Michèle Lemieux tells the story of a little girl who is unable to fall asleep during a stormy night and whose head is swarming with all kinds of thoughts: where does infinity end? Is there life on other stars? Do I exist only once in the world? Who is responsible for coincidence? And does dying hurt? In a silent dialogue with her dog Fido, she searches for answers to all her questions and ideas. The author’s black and white ink drawings accompany the little girl’s thoughts about being beautiful, being heroic and being scared. In 1997 Lemieux received the prestigious Bologna Ragazzi Award for ‘Gewitternacht’. This thoughtful picture book has been translated into more than ten languages, and the fourth edition has already been published in Germany. Lemieux’s cinematic adaptation ‘Nuit d’orage’ premiered in 2003 and was screened at the Children’s Film Festival of the 54th Berlinale, where it was awarded the Crystal Bear for best animated short film.

Before ‘Gewitternacht’ became a picture book it was a sketchbook, in which the author tried intuitively to grasp the simplicity and truthfulness of life. She loves authentic books that question the existential and that deal with universal themes. In her work Lemieux experiments with watercolours, gouache, acrylic, oils collages and pen and ink. Her drawings have a timeless-mystic quality that invites the viewer to dive into the picture and to become a part of the story. The author has illustrated a number of classical and modern texts including ‘Amahl and the Night Visitors’ by Gian Carlo Menotti (1996) and ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ (1993). Her illustrations have been exhibited in New York, Mexico, Tokyo and Montreal to name but a few. Lemieux has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award numerous times and for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2001. After having spent many years abroad, she now lives in Canada. She devotes her time to illustrative work and has taught illustration at the Université du Quèbec since 1982.

© international literature festival berlin