The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres, a children's book, was written and illustrated by a Farmingdale resident Marie LeTourneau and released to bookstores this fall.
LeTourneau, a 36-year-old wife and mother of two Farmingdale High School students, grew up in Babylon Village. She wrote the children's story about a Parisian family of mice who own a bistro and compete every year for the best cheese soup in France. When Chef Marcel runs out of the secret ingredient it is the youngest family member, Petite Michelle, who comes to the rescue.
Marie LeTourneau and her dog.
Throughout the book, LeTourneau incorporates various French words into her story along with a pronunciation guide to give young readers an introduction to the French language.
"I got the idea of incorporating French words into the story from listening to my father-in-law," LeTourneau said. "He would occasionally inject French words into his sentences. I thought it would be a great way to introduce children to the language. Kids are like sponges; if you expose them to something on a daily basis, they remember it. I still remember Spanish words from watching Sesame Street as a kid."
LeTourneau's family greatly influenced her writing. As part of a large Italian family she said, "food has always been a big part of my heritage and is one thing that knits us together as a family."
"It played a big role in the story," she added.
The cheese soup recipe, which in the book was perfected by the family of mice, was actually developed by LeTourneau, her publisher, Peggy Tierney and contributor Danielle Reed Baty.
From both her and her husband, Marc's, large families, LeTourneau got the idea to put together a large cast of characters in a restaurant setting.
"Petite Michelle is based on my sister Michelle and my daughter Hannah when she was a baby. Hannah was very quiet and my sister is really short! The seven brothers are based on my husband, his brothers and my son Alexander. Chef Marcel is based on my father-in-law and Judge Alfred Le Whisk is my own dad," explained LeTourneau.
While LeTourneau has never been to France herself, she said that at the time she was writing the story she was also exploring French art and interior design, which influenced her.
Also, Baty, a journalist, contributed some to the story and the plot. Baty lived in Paris and speaks fluent French, and was able to keep the tale authentic to the culture.
LeTourneau enrolled in The New College at Hofstra University where she studied painting, drawing, sculpture, writing, drama and art history.
"Over the course of my studies, I had two children, Alexander and Hannah. It took me 11 years of part-time studying to get my degree because of the demands of having a young family, but it was worth it," said LeTourneau.
Even after graduating, the road to getting published was not an easy one. She wrote the story seven years ago, got it copyrighted and sent it to publishers.
"I think I received over 30 rejection notices from publishers for a total of three stories - half of that for the Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres alone," she said.
During this time she also took on some freelance work. She took many creative jobs, which included everything from designing large-scale theme party decorations to designing T-shirts, greeting cards and Lego packages.
LeTourneau said, "I think the worst job I ever had was designing wrapping paper for some random company. They made me do dozens of samples, then disappeared off the face of the earth without paying me."
While sometimes she felt discouraged, she said she never wanted to do anything else, and that her two children and husband kept her feeling young and were very supportive.
LeTourneau is currently working on a sequel for The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres, where Petite Michelle ventures outside of the bistro. She says she has a lot of ideas for new books and plans to keep on writing and illustrating, although right now she is promoting her book at local bookstores.
For more information about LeTourneau, her books and appearances, visit www.marieletourneau.com.