Interview with Hélène Magisson Illustrator on Sarah’s Two Nativities

(c) Hélène Magisson: This artwork summarises the whole message of Sarah’s Two Nativities ‘Because family together in peace is the greatest blessing of all’. 

Interview by June Perkins.

Today the Magic Fish Dreaming blog welcomes back Hélène Magisson, for a delightful interview about her latest illustration work for Janine Fraser’s text Sarah’s Two Nativities.

Illustrator: Hélène Magisson began her artistic career as a painting restorer in Paris, where she was also trained in the art of medieval illumination. She has lived all over the world, including Africa, France and India. She loves to discover other cultures through their arts and customs. She now calls Australia home and has begun a new career of illustrating picture books, some of which have been CBCA Notables. Sarah’s Two Nativities (written by Janine M Fraser) is her first book with Black Dog Books.

1.Hélène began our interview by explaining the significance of the book.

The book, beautifully written by Janine Fraser, has a strong multicultural message that I immediately loved. For me, the story is a bridge between Muslims and Christians, and more globally an interfaith dialogue and bridge builder between diverse communities. It is all about peace and harmony. A beautiful and needed message.

2. Helene, as an illustrator are you often involved in the launch of books you have worked on for other authors?

I have always tried my best to be involved in the launches of the books I have illustrated. It is always a wonderful opportunity to meet the author and celebrate the result of a long and demanding collaboration.

3.Why are you involved in organising this launch?

There are two reasons why I am very much involved in this launch.
The first is that I am strongly, deeply committed to the message of Sarah’s Two Nativities, and I would love this launch to be an opportunity for people from diverse cultural backgrounds and faiths to get together.

The second reason is the opportunity to meet Janine Fraser, the author, for the first time, as I am very much looking forward to hearing in person all about how she came to write this beautiful story, and how she developed it.

Janine M Fraser lives on Phillip Island in Victoria for most of the year, and three months of the year in Manhattan, New York. She loves books, writing and travel and looks for stories wherever she goes. Her previous books have been short-listed for the CBCA awards, the NSW Premier’s Award and the WA Premier’s Award. Janine is also a published poet. Sarah’s Two Nativities is her first book with Black Dog Books.

4.What will be happening? What are you planning?

For the book launch, there will be book reading, book signing by both the author and the illustrator, but what will make this book launch also a bit special, is that we are planning to bring to the event a sense of both cultures.

There will be an Oud performance by Azadeh Shamee, a guitar performance by Marie Baguelin as well, cupcakes and koftas.

‘After my father passed away, I got this beautiful camel toy that he brought back a long time ago from Iran. I always keep it on my desk and it was what I drew first in this illustration. I like to imagine the journey this unique toy has been through to be there in this story as a bridge between these two communities.’

5.Can you tell us about the exhibition? Give us details of the launch and how people can RSVP

The book is launching September 21st  2pm, at Where the Wild Things are.  People can RSVP directly to the bookshop. BOOK LAUNCH RSVP LINK

There will be an exhibition in Philip Island from December to late January including the different versions of the text as the story developed and all the original illustrations of the book with some ‘behind the scene’ illustrations as well.

And in the meantime there will be an exhibition at  Richard Randall Studio in Brisbane organised by Book Links from 8-13 October (official launch on 9 October) with some illustrations from Lucia Masciullo and Paul O’Sullivan as well.

There will be some originals from Sarah’s Two Nativities and some artworks from my other new picture book Little Puggle’s Song written by Vikki Conley.

More on this later, stay tuned and save the date.

6.What were your inspirations when working on the illustrations?

I have a Christian background and I realised that unfortunately I didn’t know much about the Nativity, and the place of Mary and Jesus in the Koran. So, I listened and read many speeches from historians and religious representatives from both sides. It was fascinating and absolutely necessary.

I tried to be inside Sarah’s heart, loving her two grandmothers, being the one child of two different faiths. And from there, I could ‘hear’ the story of the Nativity from the Koran and the Bible perspectives and they are both absolutely beautiful.

Also, we have been working very cautiously with my publisher and art director Donna Rawlins from Black Dog Books (imprint of Walker Books) to make sure that both religions were well represented.

We decided not to illustrate the Nativity itself but instead, we chose to show, in the simplest way, Sarah imagining from a distance, the place where this incredible story happened.

And for sure, travelling and living in different countries, meeting people and having friends from different faiths and cultures helped me really deeply.

(c) Hélène Magisson ‘I wanted to show in thie image above what both books could culturally bring to Sarah. There are some items that are mentioned in the Bible, some others in the Koran and some are mentioned in both books like the angel.’

7. Who do you think this book will appeal to?

I hope it will appeal to many people from diverse backgrounds. I believe Muslims and Christians can be interested in this book, but more than that, all people who are committed to interfaith dialogue and multiculturalism in general. There are always bridges to build between us and this book is one of them thanks to Janine Fraser.

8.  Publication details of book and cost 

Sarah loves her two grandmas – Grandmother Azar and Grandmother Maria. Grandmother Azar tells Sarah stories from the Holy Koran, while Grandmother Maria tells her stories from the Bible. At Christmas time, Sarah snuggles in each of her grandmothers’ laps and listens to two nativities stories about the birth of baby Jesus. They are the same in some ways, and different in others … but both can be Sarah’s favourite.  Visit Walker Books

ISBN: 9781925381795
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Distributor: Walker Australia-HEDS
Binding: Hardback
Release Date: September 1, 2019
Dimensions: 245 x 270mm, 32pp
Australian RRP: $26.99
New Zealand RRP: $28.99

June: Thanks so much for this wonderful sharing Hélène and wishing you the very best for the launch.

For people wanting to register for the Brisbane launch, visit this  BOOK LAUNCH RSVP LINK

3 thoughts on “Interview with Hélène Magisson Illustrator on Sarah’s Two Nativities

  1. What a delightful interview with Helene, June. Thank you. I love Helene’s work and the important message of this book is made possible and brought to life through Helene almost magical illustrations.

    Like

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