Author: Ghylaine Paquin-Back
Illustrations: Frédéric Back
Published by Les Entreprises Radio-Canada, Montreal and Centurion Youth, Paris, 1986, 32 pages
(References: Canada: 0-88794-303-9; France: 2-227-71257-0. Out of print.)
Japanese version: Laser Disc Corp. Asunaro, Tokyo, 1987
The story of a family's rocking chair, a fixture of Quebec homes for generations, becomes the story of a changing society. As the farmer who carved it gradually ages, the rocker moves from his workshop to the parlour, then to the bedroom and the kitchen of their home, always a part of the family's activities. We watch with him as time and urbanization transform the landscape and traditional life of rural Quebec. Written by Frédéric Back's wife, Ghylaine Paquin-Back, the book is based on the film Crac!, which won a score of awards, including an Oscar® for best animated film in 1982.
The film version of Crac! was produced by Radio-Canada in 1981. The narrative framework came from a French composition written in 1966 by Frédéric Back's 10-year-old daughter, Süzel. Her mother, Ghylaine, thought Süzel's brief account of the life of a rocking chair would be an interesting idea to develop, and convinced her husband to work it into an animated short. The film, which has no narration, was so successful that Centurion Youth decided to publish it in book form. Ghylaine, who was a French teacher and enjoyed writing, wrote the text.
From film to book
To lend a poetic rhythm to the text, Ghylaine Paquin-Back wrote in octosyllables. She also worked on its musicality, playing with rhymes, euphony and consonance. She enjoyed putting the story of Crac! into words, but she never lost sight of its educational purpose. Her goal was to expose young readers to a richly varied vocabulary, and she paid special attention to the quality of the language. So that French-speakers around the world could enjoy the tale, she appended a short glossary of the Quebec words and expressions she had used.
The book contains the essence of the film, but the illustrations are completely new. An animated film requires many drawings to create the sense of movement that drives the story. For the book version, Frédéric Back condensed several scenes into a single illustration. For both the book and the film, the backgrounds were done in dry pastel and the details in coloured pencil on frosted cel.