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Meet Joy Sorman & Olivier Tallec, Winners of the Prix Albertine Jeunesse 2021

Joy Sorman & Olivier Tallec, winners of the 2021 Prix Albertine Jeunesse in 6-8 years old category for Blob, the Ugliest Animal in the World (Enchanted Lion Books, 2017, Actes Sud Junior, 2015, Tr. Sarah Klinger) took a moment to answer our questions, featuring blobfish and Sempé....

Joy Sorman was previously a philosophy professor before devoting herself to journalism and writing. In 2005, she published her first work, Boys, Boys, Boys, a challenging feminist story about a girl who is a little different. Sorman also works in TV and radio journalism. 

Where did you get the idea for Blob: The Ugliest Animal in the World?

I discovered the existence of the blobfish—which exists in reality—years ago on the internet. To be precise, on an English website devoted to ugly animals! I found it to have an incredibly expressive head, and it was bordering on fact and fiction. Simultaneously funny and frightening, you can scarcely believe such a thing exists in nature. I thought that it would be an incredible character for a story.

Olivier Tallec has illustrated two of your children’s books, No Mercy on My Tennis and Blob: The Ugliest Animal in the World: how do you work together?

Before I start writing, I speak to him briefly about the subject, I give him a general idea of the text to find out whether the theme might inspire him. Once I have his agreement, I write on my own, alone. Then, it is his turn—in the solitude of his work as well—to illustrate. There can be some back-and-forth nonetheless, especially to find the right balance between the text and the image, ensuring that the text does not give too many details, and is not too descriptive, to let the drawing take its own place, to feed the imagination and support the text without being redundant.

How do you overcome blank page syndrome?

I do not have this syndrome because I never start with a blank page. Before writing, there is always the work of doing research, documentation, and reflection, you let the dough rest and then start writing, it is a process over time which slowly brings out the inspiration.

Olivier Tallec’s work has been called “sensitive”, “stunning”, “breathtaking”, and “beautiful.” Tallec was born in Brittany, France, in 1970. After graduating from the École professionnelle supérieure d'arts graphiques in Paris, he worked in advertising as a graphic designer, after which he devoted himself to illustration. Since then he has illustrated more than sixty books, of which over a dozen have been published by Enchanted Lion.

How did you collaborate with Joy Sorman, the author of Blob, the Ugliest Animal in the World?

I actually never work with the author when I am illustrating a text that is not mine. My only interlocutors are the publisher and the artistic director. I receive the texts from the publishers but almost never from the authors themselves.

Can you tell us what your major sources of inspiration were for the book?

I did not have any specific sources of inspiration for this book; my references range from Sempé to Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) or Gary Larson. But do they have a direct influence on my work and in every book? It is always difficult to determine what is influencing you.

Is there a novel or story that you would love to illustrate?

Recently I illustrated Moby Dick, which is a work that I have wanted to illustrate for a long time; even though many versions already exist. Yet more and more I am writing my own texts, which I illustrate as well.

Blob the fish is excited. He's just won the ugliest animal in the world contest! But the popularity and fame that accompany Blob's win soon go to his head. And the loneliness of his new title goes to his heart. And of course, fame doesn't last forever.

More info here and here

© Olivier Tallec & Joy Sorman