A rescue dog resembling a fox and a beloved lake in Babylon become inspiration for Letourneau’s latest book.
Reviewed by Melissa Arnold
Marie Letourneau of Farmingdale has always been a creative spirit, illustrating and writing a number of picture books for children. Her latest release, “Argyle Fox,” follows a day in the life of an adorable young fox looking for something fun to quell his boredom. It’s a windy day, however, and Argyle learns plenty about perseverance, trial and error as he searches for the perfect game to play.
Best suited for ages 3 to 7, the story teaches that failure is often a path to success and celebrates perseverance, creative thinking and an old-fashioned springtime activity. Letourneau took time out in preparing for a book launch party at Book Revue in Huntington on March 26 to chat about her latest venture.
Tell me a bit about your childhood. Have you always lived on Long Island?
I was born in Queens Village, but my family moved out to Lindenhurst on Long Island when I was 5. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Babylon village — that’s where I grew up, that’s my hometown.
Were you creative as a child? What were you involved in growing up?
I’ve been interested in art as far back as I can remember. I loved writing stories and drawing pictures. I would make little books out of paper and staples for family members. I was very interested in puppets (thanks, Jim Henson) and just about anything that had to do with art. I was, and I still am, a very visual person. I didn’t always do well in school because I was always too busy doodling in my notebooks.
Did you always want to become an author/illustrator? Who encouraged you to pursue it?
My parents and family were always encouraging of my art pursuits. When we were young, my mom would read to my sister and me at night. I remember looking at “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Winnie the Pooh” and thinking, “WOW! I want to do that! How do these people draw so well? How are books made? How do they get the drawing and words onto paper?” I think I was about 7 or 8 years old at the time. So, yes, I have definitely always wanted to write and illustrate. As an adult, my husband encouraged me to follow my passion to do artwork and create picture books. I couldn’t have done it without his patience.
Did you go to school for this?
I attended Hofstra University’s New College Program where I majored in fine art, but I never studied illustration per se. I didn’t go to art school. I learned how to create picture books pretty much on my own.
Is this your first book?
No, the first book I wrote and illustrated is called “The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres.” The very first book I ever illustrated is called “Is a Worry Worrying You?”
What was the publishing process like? Did you go the traditional route, using a publisher, or did you self-publish?
I have never self-published. All of my books are through Tanglewood. Self-publishing has its own merits and value, but I prefer working with a publisher/art director. I enjoy collaborating and bouncing ideas off of another person. A professional “eye” is invaluable. Working with Peggy Tierney (publisher at Tanglewood) has upped my illustration game significantly. She’s amazing. She’s taught me so much. I am forever grateful to her.
What inspired you to write this book?
This is a long, disjointed story that happened over several years. Several years ago, I started writing a story about a child who wants to play outside on a windy day. I worked on it on and off for about a year or two.
Around that same time, we adopted a rescue dog, and we decided she looked very much like a fox. Because of this, my family and I considered naming her “Reynard,” which is French for fox. We ended up naming her Reynie, and, subsequently, I somehow became slightly obsessed with foxes. One night I was sketching foxes, and it dawned on me to change the character from a child to a fox. I named him Argyle after a beautiful little lake in my hometown of Babylon.
Why is Argyle Lake Park so special to you?
I spent a lot of time at Argyle Lake Park with my friends growing up. It’s very picturesque, full of ducks and swans, a waterfall bridge, flowering trees and small park. When I was very young, I would look for turtles there (never caught one) or walk my dog. In the winter, everyone gathered to ice skate. But I think one of my fondest memories of Argyle Lake was through my high school, Babylon Junior-Senior High School. The yearbook club always took the annual “senior year” group photo on the steps of the Argyle Lake waterfall. It was a privilege we always looked forward to as underclassmen.
How would you describe Argyle Fox?
Argyle is strong-willed, a little precocious, and a tad cheeky — but he has a very kind and creative heart.
Do you think kids can relate to Argyle?
I think kids will definitely relate to Argyle. Who hasn’t attempted something, only to find they don’t succeed the first time (or second, or third)? Failure, or “delayed success” as I like to call it, is such a wonderful teacher — it pushes us to look at things differently. It nudges us to reexamine our path to success. Most of all, I think it teaches us to find our patience.
What message do you hope kids take away from your book?
If at first you don’t succeed, creativity and persistence will get you there! But don’t forget to have fun along the way!
Tell me about your book launch party.
It will be at the Book Revue, which is at 313 New York Avenue in Huntington on Sunday, March 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. I will be doing both a reading and signing books (which are for sale at the event). We will have forest-themed cupcakes and everyone is invited to attend!
Where can the book be purchased?
“Argyle Fox” is available at Barnes and Noble stores and online, Amazon, and through many independent bookstores and online sellers.
What’s up next for you?
I’d love to continue publishing books for young readers. Right now, I am just stirring the creative pot in my mind and seeing what floats to the surface. You can learn more about me by visiting my website, www.marieletourneau.com. There you will find my books, illustrations, an events page and more!