monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

3 minutes reading time (607 words)

Bilingual Reading -- Lecture Bilingue -- à Morin Heights

I'm just back from a stimulating morning in Morin Heights, a lovely little town about an hour's drive north of Montreal. Stimulating because my brain was working non-stop in Canada's two official languages! I was reading from my work to local youngsters at the Morin Heights Public Library. Though most of the kids were aged three and four -- there were a few, such as Chloé, who were younger -- they were able to switch easily from French to English -- sometimes even in the space of a sentence!

I read from my picture book The Brass Charm (Scholastic Canada), illustrated by Marie Lafrance -- luckily, there's also a French version of the book called Le Trésor d'Oma. Anyway, I don't think I've ever gone so often from French to English and back again in one reading ... so it was good exercise for my brain!!

I explained to the kids -- and to the adults who were with them -- that the story of The Brass Charm is inspired by a real life incident. As a child, my mother was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and she was given the brass charm on her birthday by a kind stranger.

I like my audience to be comfortable, so when I heard Kyanne complaining about not having a pillow, I offered her the pillow from the rocking chair on which I was sitting. Problem solved! I should mention too that Kyanne was wearing a ballet dress. When I was a kid, my favourite part of ballet class was wearing the dress! When I inquired whether Kyanne does ballet, she answered proudly, "I do!"

Let me tell you about a few other fun moments. A student named Wesley dazzled me with his questions -- and Wesley is only FOUR. He wanted to know about my mother. "How did she survive?" (I explained that she was lucky and that there were good people who helped her.) Later, when I couldn't find my note paper and I said out loud, "I can't live without my notes," Wesley had another question: "Why can't you live without notes?" And the answer to that is BECAUSE I'M A WRITER! WE'RE ALWAYS TAKING NOTES!

We also talked a little about writing stories. I explained that all my stories grow out of questions. When my mother passed the monkey man charm onto me, I asked, "What's the story?" In French, that's "C'est quoi, l'histoire?"

The kids who came to my reading today may be little, but as I told them, they're not too little to begin working on their own stories. Some of them are only beginning to learn to write, but they can always make drawings to tell their stories. I suggested they try writing (or drawing) about an object that is precious to them. Kyanne said her precious object is a rainbow necklace.

Another thing that made me happy was that when my reading was over, the kids wanted to show me library books they liked. Camille brought me the book l'Oeuf by Kevin Henkes and we read it together.

Special thanks to the Writers' Union of Canada for sponsoring my visit today to the Morin Heights Public Library, and to librarian Sandrine Gamache for getting things organized. Thanks to library volunteer Louise Cossette, who is also a city councillor for Morin Heights. Thanks to Catherine and Anne-Cécile from the local daycare, and to the parents (and grandparents) who brought their kids to the library to meet me and hear me read my stories. One day, I hope to be sitting in the audience when you kids are reading your own stories!

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Tuesday, 25 June 2024

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