Marie-Louise Gay is a Canadian children’s book author and illustrator living in Montreal, Quebec. She has written and illustrated over 20 books for children and her website (http://marielouisegay.com) includes overviews of each of her stories, videos, resources for teachers, printables, and more.
I was very fortunate to hear her speak last October at a Professional Development conference on literature; she offered wonderful insight into her process and how teachers can encourage writing in the classroom. For today’s spotlight I am going to highlight my favourite Marie-Louise Gay books to use in the classroom: Mustafa and the Stella and Sam series. I’ve been using the Stella books for the last four years, but Mustafa is a new addition to my mentor text collection.
Mustafa is a beautiful picture book about a young boy who moves to a new country from a home very far away. The illustrations tell the story as much as the words do, and start “before” the story begins. Mustafa’s story is about loss, hope, friendship and new beginnings. This is a perfect picture book for children to connect to who speak a different language, who have moved to a new place or who are refugees. It also helps children who have not experienced these things to connect with their peers who have, and their experiences. My students and I have had fantastic conversations about what the see in the illustrations, about how everyone is different and how we should treat others, and the amazing connections they are able to make to Mustafa and his journey.
There are six Stella books and three Sam books in this lovely series about a brother and sister exploring the world around them. Stella is Sam’s big sister, and she knows everything! As they explore, Sam asks Stella all the questions. Stella answers them – whether she knows the “right” answer or not. Stella is brave, outgoing and adventurous; Sam is cautious, curious and while less outgoing then Stella, he still follows her. These books are perfect to use in lessons about questioning and imaginative writing. We always have great discussions about Stella’s answers to Sam’s questions!