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Francine Allard, femme militante


Reportage sur la présidente d’honneur du salon du livre de l’Outaouais 2001

Stéphanie Moreau
Voir Outaouais, 22 mars 2001



Les romanciers sont de parfaits menteurs


« Incontestablement, cette œuvre attire l’attention (et la sympathie) du lecteur par l’humour des personnages ainsi que par la franchise qui se dégage de leurs propos, combinaison qui les rend d’une incroyable authenticité. De même, le roman reflète par la multitude de thèmes qu’il véhicule, tels le célibat, l’homosexualité, le statut d’immigrant… (…) Enfin Les mains si blanches de Pye Chang est d’une lecture agréable.»

Caroline Bergeron
Québec français, hiver 2001



Le merveilleux indicible…


« Il y a de ces livres qui vous chavirent le cœur. De ces livres qui vous ébranlent et qui vous font voir la vie autrement, l’espace de quelques heures. De ces livres qui vous donnent l’envie d’être gentil, d’aimer vos semblables et d’arrêter votre monde fou de tourner. Deux petits ours au milieu de la tornade est de ceux-là. Mais comment exprimer la beauté de cette histoire? Comment évoquer toute la tendresse échangée entre les personnages? Comment rendre compte, dans un si petit espace, de ces êtres si authentiques et si différents? Car ce n’est pas dans tous les romans qu’on nous présente une telle profondeur de réflexion. Ce n’est pas dans tous les romans que se tissent de grandes histoires d’amour sur léger ton de science-fiction. Ce n’est que dans ce roman que l’on peut entendre un merveilleux «mouman!»

Nathalie Ferraris
Ici, septembre 2001



Harry Potter


QUEBEC AFFAIRS

PETER BLACK

Harry Potter & Quebec

A teenage girl reading a book nearly bumped into me as she walked by. I managed to catch the title of the book that so engrossed her. It was a French version of one of the Harry Potter novels.

This is some modest anecdotal evidence that Quebec is not immune from the Pottermania sweeping the world. While the Potter books may not be dominating the adult bestsellers lists as they do in English, J.K. Rowling's magic appears to have not suffered much in the translation.

The Harry phenomenon has been powerful enough to move one Quebecoise author of books for kids to proclaim the success of the Potter books in Quebec as a blow for creative freedom in children's literature.

Francine Allard writes in a recent open letter in La Presse that Harry's adventures have caused her to question the state-prescribed expectations for children's literature in Quebec. Her account of her first encounter with a scholastic publisher is as scary as a Dementor, or even Lord Voldemort himself.

According to the guidebook the publisher sent Allard, the ideal children's book would contain the following: a boy and girl hero, in order to reinforce gender equality; they should be the same age as the intended junior readership; and they should have a pet.

As for style, the perfect kids' book should not have sentences of more than twelve words, with no more than one "difficult" word per page, and the book should be no longer than 88 pages. The story should be simple and use only the present indicative tense.


Oh, and the manuscript must be submitted in 12-point courier type face.

Thinking she was dealing with a particularly narrow and fussy publisher, Allard protested.

Au contraire, the publisher replied, these are the standards recommended by the Ministry of Education.

The reasoning, he explained, is that if we want our children to read Quebec novels, we must not make them too difficult, after all, it's hard enough to get kids to read as it is.

The response outraged Allard, who says she already was distressed by the feeble literary challenges education officials have presented to Quebec students -- purée for the toothless, she calls the scholastic offerings.

Rowling, of course, has set conventional expectations for children's reading on their head. In the space of mere months she has allowed children to prove to adults just what they are capable of if offered a good story.

The Potter success, Allard contends, exposes the rot in Quebec's approach where "the entire educational system is based on what children want, not what should be expected of them. The child-king has spoken!"

There are some hopeful signs the Potter message is beginning to be reflected in government educational policy. This coming school term, for example, marks the introduction of a major curriculum reform designed to make learning more interesting while stepping up emphasis on the building blocks of language -- spelling and grammar.

While in certain respects the new curriculum still pays allegiance to the "child-king" in terms of using elements of junior's world as teaching tools, the overall objective of the reform appears to be to turn out children with vastly improved reading and other academic skills. It is quite probably that kids are reluctant to read voluntarily - given the other distractions available these days - when it feels more like work than pleasure.

The shaky quality of literary skills being taught in Quebec schools is naturally a preoccupation of the Parti Quebecois government.

While the debate is engaged on the effect of external pressures on the French language, there's no question the quality of spoken and written French is at near-crisis levels.

The return to a somewhat traditional, more disciplined approach to the teaching of language, where students, starting at an early age, will have their spelling and grammar errors corrected, is a step on a long road to improve literacy.

Unlike in the Potter books, there is no magic answer to Quebec's problems with children's literacy.

Peter Black is a writer living in Quebec City, where he is the producer of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English-language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri).







Peter Black
CBF radio, 15 octobre 2001



Francine Allard and Harry Potter


Francine Allard writes in a recent open letter in La Presse that Harry's adventures have caused her to question the state-prescribed expectations for children's literature in Quebec. Her account of her first encounter with a scholastic publisher is as scary as a Dementor, or even Lord Voldemort himself.

According to the guidebook the publisher sent Allard, the ideal children's book would contain the following: a boy and girl hero, in order to reinforce gender equality; they should be the same age as the intended junior readership; and they should have a pet.

As for style, the perfect kids' book should not have sentences of more than twelve words, with no more than one "difficult" word per page, and the book should be no longer than 88 pages. The story should be simple and use only the present indicative tense.


Oh, and the manuscript must be submitted in 12-point courier type face.

Thinking she was dealing with a particularly narrow and fussy publisher, Allard protested.

Au contraire, the publisher replied, these are the standards recommended by the Ministry of Education.

The reasoning, he explained, is that if we want our children to read Quebec novels, we must not make them too difficult, after all, it's hard enough to get kids to read as it is.

The response outraged Allard, who says she already was distressed by the feeble literary challenges education officials have presented to Quebec students -- purée for the toothless, she calls the scholastic offerings.

Rowling, of course, has set conventional expectations for children's reading on their head. In the space of mere months she has allowed children to prove to adults just what they are capable of if offered a good story.

The Potter success, Allard contends, exposes the rot in Quebec's approach where "the entire educational system is based on what children want, not what should be expected of them. The child-king has spoken!"

There are some hopeful signs the Potter message is beginning to be reflected in government educational policy. This coming school term, for example, marks the introduction of a major curriculum reform designed to make learning more interesting while stepping up emphasis on the building blocks of language -- spelling and grammar.

While in certain respects the new curriculum still pays allegiance to the "child-king" in terms of using elements of junior's world as teaching tools, the overall objective of the reform appears to be to turn out children with vastly improved reading and other academic skills. It is quite probably that kids are reluctant to read voluntarily - given the other distractions available these days - when it feels more like work than pleasure.

The shaky quality of literary skills being taught in Quebec schools is naturally a preoccupation of the Parti Quebecois government.

While the debate is engaged on the effect of external pressures on the French language, there's no question the quality of spoken and written French is at near-crisis levels.

The return to a somewhat traditional, more disciplined approach to the teaching of language, where students, starting at an early age, will have their spelling and grammar errors corrected, is a step on a long road to improve literacy.

Unlike in the Potter books, there is no magic answer to Quebec's problems with children's literacy.

Peter Black is a writer living in Quebec City, where he is the producer of Quebec A.M. -- CBC Radio's popular English-language morning show (91.7 FM, 6-9, Mon.-Fri).




Peter Black
Radio de la SRC, 15 Mars 2001


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