October 19, 2021

Let's Talk Illustrators #195: Amélie Graux

Benji's Doll, written by Luis Amavisca and Alicia Acosta and illustrated by Amélie Graux, is a sweet and gentle story that highlights the importance allowing children the freedom to select whatever toy they want for playtime, regardless of how the toy is perceived or marketed (ie, a "girl's toy" or a "boy's toy"). I got a chance to talk to illustrator Amélie about bringing Benji's story to life, and I'm excited to share it with you today––have a read!

About the book:
Benji wants a doll more than anything in the world. When he finally gets one, he can't wait to take it to the park to show his friends...

An up-lifting story to remind us that there are no toys for boys and toys for girls - there are just toys.

Let's talk Amélie Graux!

LTPB: How did you become the illustrator of Benji's Doll? What were you most excited to illustrate?

AG: Benji's Doll is my second collaboration with NubeOcho, and I really loved working with them. When I received the text of Benji's Doll it seemed an excellent opportunity to talk a little bit about sexism to children. I consider myself as a feminist and fell immediately in love with this story because the text is so funny and tender. I believe that humor is a great way to expose serious thoughts or thematics for children, as well for adults.

LTPB: Can you talk a little bit about the visual evolution of Benji's Doll?

AG: It was really easy to find the characters of this book, mainly because I was so inspired, but also because I love character research! My work is very much centered on the expression of the feelings of the characters.

LTPB: What did you use to create the illustrations in this book?

AG: I really like to do portraits or draw on the spot (I love to draw in the metro, of course with the masks it's less fun ;) ). About the mediums I used for this book, it is a savant mix of watercolour, felt tips and colouring pencils.

LTPB: What are you working on now? Anything you can show us?

AG: I would really like to talk about my first own book I've just finished. It is called Animal, le jour où je suis devenu loup by Little Urban Editions, and I wrote and illustrated it with the very same mediums I've used for Benji's Doll. I wanted to talk about childhood, about children's frustration with adults who keep hindering their freedom.

Overflowing imagination, the possibility of escaping from a reality that is too boring. I really liked Maurice Sendak's Really Rosie, which my mother gave me when I was a child and which I found perfectly evocative of this irresistible shift towards the imaginary.

My hero, Simon is tired of obeying the incessant orders of adults on the pretext that he is a child. He therefore decides to be a wolf and return to the wild in order to find freedom at the bottom of the garden. He quickly realizes that he misses his family and that he needs others, especially at snack time.

I had a lot of fun illustrating my own text, I have wanted to write for a long time but, as often in the creative process, I had concerns about legitimacy ;) I am delighted to have arrived to overcome this and carried out my project.

A huge thank you to Amélie for taking time to answer some questions! Benji's Doll published last week from NubeOcho!

Special thanks to Amélie, NubeOcho, and Publisher Spotlight for use of these images!

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