Home Arts & Culture New chapter for local illustrator 

New chapter for local illustrator 

Courtesy Kaïa'tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush

Countless sketches, back-and-forths, and about half a year later, Kahnawa’kehró:non illustrator Kaia’tanó:ron Dumoulin Bush got her first glimpse of the book Jules au pays d’Asha, which will be up on the bookshelves across Quebec in just under two weeks on August 2.

Realizing this project was what she called a dream come true. Although her work has appeared in books before, this is the first one she’s illustrated that will be widely available.

“I’m really excited to be able to walk in the store and see my illustrations and see my name on the book on the shelf,” she said.

Set in 1940, the book follows a young Indigenous girl by the name of Asha as she searches for her parents. It was adapted from the film by the same name, co-written by Sophie Farkas Bolla and Sarah Lalonde, which is playing in theatres now.

From the very first time she watched the film, Dumoulin Bush felt hooked in the narrative. 

“There were just moments where I just couldn’t stop crying because it’s such an emotional story and means so much to me,” she said. Asha reminded her of her little sister when she was younger, and she quickly drew parallels between the two.

“It’s such a lovely little girl, and she’s so spicy and feisty.… She represents something really important to the contemporary cultural landscape. So I got very attached very quickly,” Dumoulin Bush said.

The illustrations in the books are from Asha’s point of view, while the story is written from Jules’s perspective. The book’s author, Chloé Varin, found this to be complementary.

“Kaïa’tanó:ron really touched me with her reading of the story, her point of view, the perspective she was bringing to the project,” said Varin. 

This book proved itself a daunting undertaking, as both Varin and Dumoulin Bush were pressed for time – Varin with writing the first draft of the book, due within one month of taking on the project, and Dumoulin Bush with producing the drawings. The book was sent to the printer in May.

“Everything went so fast, but I think the result is amazing,” said Varin, who received the book two weeks ago. “It’s really, really beautiful.” 

The time crunch kept Maxime P. Bélanger on his toes, too. 

“It was intense,” said Bélanger, literary and artistic director at Bayard Canada, the book’s publisher.

“She really did a wonderful job,” he said of Dumoulin Bush. “It was amazing to see everything taking shape.”

For Bélanger, it’s exciting – and also a relief – to see the book come together, with both the text and illustrations falling into place, page by page. “It’s like the perfect marriage. This is when the magic occurs,” he said. 

Despite the tight – and numerous – deadlines, the project was smooth sailing for the team. 

“She was really, really invested in the project. She gave us way more than we asked,” said Bélanger, adding he was impressed with the level of detail Dumoulin Bush incorporated into each scene she illustrated. 

The style they chose aligns with a “vintage” aesthetic, in Dumoulin Bush’s words, which she thought aligned with the film. 

“Her drawings are absolutely gorgeous, and she totally understands the characters in their expressions,” said Farkas Bolla, the film’s director, who was involved in selecting the illustrator and author for the book. 

“I really felt that she had a sensibility that would talk to kids more. And that was a big, big factor,” she said.
For Farkas Bolla, bringing IJules au pays d’Asha to the screen has been a much longer process – she’s been working on the film for seven years. 

“It’s been challenging to say the least,” she said. 

The idea for a book came about from her desire to create a more long-lasting story, and she’s also thinking of making a podcast off the story to carry on conversations surrounding certain concepts addressed in the film. 

The last illustration was particularly meaningful and came from Dumoulin Bush’s interpretation of the film, which has an open ending.

“Depending on who you are, you’ll see the movie differently, which is sort of the point,” she added.

Indeed, Dumoulin Bush felt it was important to give a good conclusion. “I put all my love into kids for this and I really hope that comes across,” said Dumoulin Bush. 

The book will be available in all independent bookstores as well as all Renaud-Bray and Archambault stores across the province of Quebec, in addition to a few locations outside the province, including in Ontario and Manitoba. 

This article was originally published in print on Friday, July 21, in issue 32.29 of The Eastern Door.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.