Scholastic Canada | Giles And Irene

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Q & A with
Gilles and Irene

Gilles Tibo

Gilles Tibo

1. Where did you find the inspiration to write this story?

While one of my friends was mending a hole in her sock, I asked her, laughing, if she could mend a broken heart. After hesitating for a few seconds, she said that it would take much more than a needle and thread to fix a broken heart.

It was at that moment that I thought of writing a story about how to repair a broken heart.

So I went to my computer and wrote a first draft, inventing the character of Miss Matilda. She was a woman with a big heart, who repairs all sorts of broken trinkets and who suddenly finds herself in front of a child whose heart is full of sorrow. I wrote many versions until Miss Matilda came into her own as a character, filled with warmth and generosity.

2. Why did you choose Irene Luxbacher to illustrate the story?

I didn’t ask to work with a specific illustrator. I just asked for an artist with a style that would correspond to the spirit of the story — a style that would portray a world that’s realistic, whimsical, and poetic.

After a few years, Scholastic proposed Irene Luxbacher from Toronto

I was immediately thrilled by the artistic quality of her work, both meticulous and full of light. I am so happy that she agreed to bring Miss Matilda to life. And she definitely succeeded, portraying her as a character full of generosity, gentleness and kindness.

3. What are the main themes of the story? Intergenerational relationships? Grief? Community?

The story of Miss Matilda is basically a philosophical tale of several themes: intergenerational relationships, grief, and the importance of community, helping others and being kind to those around us. This story is an ode to generosity, paying attention to others, and reciprocity.

I always write with an open heart. I hope that the heart of Miss Matilda will touch the hearts of readers around the world!

Irene Luxbacher

Irene Luxbacher

1. What setting inspired your art for this book? Some illustrations remind us of Montreal. Was that because of Gilles?

Montreal was the area I was thinking about when I worked on the illustrations and, yes, it was because Gilles is from there. But also, I thought the architecture would lend itself to the uniqueness of the characters of the story. A busy city scene but with lots of warmth, history, a vibrant community centered around a local park.

I also lived for many years in an area of Toronto that has a similar feeling, and the gates to the park in the story are modelled after the view I had of Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto.

2. What prompted you to add a musical component to the story?

I added a musical component because the story is centered around the song of the bird and how Miss Matilda sang/created songs to comfort the children as a result of the bird singing to her everyday and “filling her heart with joy.”

3. What are the main themes of the story? Intergenerational relationships? Grief? Community?

I would say some of themes of the story are the healing nature of art and compassion, as well as the idea that love and grief are fundamental human experiences that we all share.

The idea of community becoming family is a strong theme as well . . . but really there are so many wonderful lessons readers can take away from this touching story!

4. What passage was the most inspiring? And which one did you have to re-work?

The passage that was the most inspiring initially was when Miss Matilda comforted Jeremy under the swings. In that image I wanted the rest of the world to disappear and to really focus on the two of them and the healing song surrounding them. To me, that was the most powerful part of the story. The other page that touched me deeply was when Miss Matilda opens the handkerchief to reveal her beloved bird.

At that point I had been working on the art for some time and I really felt her grief, especially since I was experiencing a personal loss at the same time. I will forever relate very deeply to this story as a result — because of the theme of grief, and the power of art to heal.