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Roch Carrier (1937–) Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born 1937, in Sainte-Justine-de-Dorchester, Quebec, Canada; Education: Attended College Saint-Louis; University of Montreal, B.A., M.A., 1961; further study at Sorbonne, University of Paris, 1961–64.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Tundra Books/Livres Toundra, 75 Sherbourne St., 5th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M5A 2P9, Canada.


Novelist, poet, dramatist, screenwriter, and author of short fiction. Has held teaching positions at College Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean, Quebec, and at University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec; lecturer. Theatre du Nouveau Monde, Quebec, secretary-general, 1970–; chair, Salon du Livre, Montreal; Canada Council, Ottawa, director, 1994–; appointed national librarian of Canada, 1999–2004.

Honors Awards

Prix Litteraire de la Province de Quebec, 1964, for Jolis deuils: Petites tragedies pour adultes; Grand Prix Litteraire, City of Montreal, 1981; Stephen Leacock Prize for humor, 1991, for Prayers of a Very Wise Child; named officer, Order of Canada.



Les enfants du bonhomme dans la lune, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1979, Roch Carrierreprinted, 1998, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The Hockey Sweater, and Other Stories, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1979, reprinted, 1999.

Ne faites pas mal a l'avenin, Editions Paulinas, 1984.

Un champion, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen, Livres Toundra (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The Boxing Champion, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1991.

Un bonne et heureuse année, illustrated by Gilles Pelletier, Livres Toundra (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991, published as A Happy New Year's Day, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1991.

Canada je t'aime—I Love You, illustrated by Miyuki Tanobe, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1991.

Le plus long circuit, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen, Livres Toundra (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The Longest Home Run, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1993.

Joueur de basket-ball, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen, Livres Toundra (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The Basketball Player, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 1996.

Le chandail de hockey, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen, Livres Toundra (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

La chasse-galerie, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen, Livres Toundra (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004, translated by Sheila Fischman as The Flying Canoe, Tundra Books (Plattsburgh, NY), 2004.


La guerre, Yes Sir! (also see below), Editions du Jour (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1968, translation by Sheila Fischman published under the same title, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1970.

Floralie, où es-tu? (also see below), Editions du Jour (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1969, translation by Sheila Fischman published as Floralie, Where Are You?, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1971.

Il est par là, le soleil (also see below), Editions du Jour (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1970, translation by Sheila Fischman published as Is It the Sun, Philibert?, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1972.

Le deux-millième étage, Editions du Jour (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1973, translation by Sheila Fischman published as They Won't Demolish Me!, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1974.

Le jardin des délices, Editions la Press (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1975, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The Garden of Delights, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1978.

Il n'y a pas de pays sans grand-père, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1979, translation by Sheila Fischman published as No Country without Grandfathers, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1981.

Les fleurs vivent-elles ailleurs que sur la terre, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1980.

La trilogie de l'âge sombre (contains La guerre, Yes Sir!, Floralie, où es-tu?, and Il est par là, le soleil), Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1981.

La dame qui avait des chaînes aux chevilles, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1981, translation by Sheila Fischman published as Lady with Chains, Anansi, 1984.

De l'amour dans la ferraille, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1984, translation by Sheila Fischman published as Heartbreaks along the Road, Anansi (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.

L'ours et le kangourou, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1986.

Un chameau en jordanie, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1988.

Prières d'un enfant très très sage, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1988, translation by Sheila Fischman published as Prayers of a Very Wise Child, Penguin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

L'homme dans le placard (mystery), Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1991, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The Man in the Closet, Viking (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.

Fin, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1992, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The End, Viking (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Petit homme tornade, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1996, translation by Sheila Fischman published as The Lament of Charlie Longsong, Viking, 1998.

Un chaise, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1999.

Les moines dans la tour, XYZ éditeur (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2004.


La guerre, Yes Sir! (four-act; adapted from Carrier's novel; produced in Montreal, 1970; English-language version produced in Stratford, Ontario, 1972), Editions du Jour (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1970, revised edition, 1973.

Floralie (adapted from Carrier's novel Floralie, où es-tu?; produced in Montreal, 1974), Editions du Jour (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1974.

Il n'y a pas de pays sans grand-père (adapted from Carrier's novel), produced in Montreal, Quebec, 1978.

La celeste bicyclette (produced in Montreal, 1979; translation produced in Toronto as The Celestial Bicycle, 1982), Stanke (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1980.


Le martien de Noël, National Film Board of Canada, 1970.

The Ungrateful Land, National Film Board of Canada, 1972.

The Hockey Sweater (short subject), animated by Sheldon Cohen, National Film Board of Canada, 1980.


Les jeux incompris (poetry), Editions Nocturne (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1956.

Cherche tes mots, cherche tes pas (poetry), Editions Nocturne (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1958.

Jolis deuils: petites tragedies pour adultes (stories), Editions du Jour, 1964, reprinted, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1999.

L'aube d'acier (poem), illustrated by Maurice Savoie, Auteurs Reunis, 1971.

Les voyageurs de l'arc-en-ciel, illustrations by François Olivier, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1980.

Le cirque noir, Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1982.

Enfants de la planete, Paulines, 1989.

Le rocket (biography), Stanké (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2000, translated as Our Life with the Rocket: The Maurice Richard Story, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.

Le petit bonhomme rond qui avait des plume à son chapeau melon (stories), Éditions du Lilas (Vallée-Jonction, Quebec, Canada), 2001.

(Author of introduction) 626 by 9: A Goal-by-Goal Timeline of Maurice "The Rocket" Richard's Scoring Career in Pictures, Stats, and Stories, Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec, Canada), 2004.

Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Études françaises and Ellipse. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Écrits du Canada français.


Honored as national librarian of Canada from 1999 to 2004, Quebec-based writer Roch Carrier has been cited among French Canada's most important novelists. With the translation of many of his works into English, Carrier is also widely known among American and British readers, where his adult novels such as La Guerre, Yes Sir! and No Country without Grandfathers. Earning recognition in the early 1970s with a trio of adult novels that focus on a half-century of Quebec history, he has established a reputation for his sensitive portrayal of the often-turbulent misunderstandings that exist between French-and English-speaking Canadians. A multitalented writer, Carrier has also adapted several of his Originally published in French, The Basketball Player focuses on a young boy who learns that the things he fears are usually not as bad as they seem at first glance. (Illustration by Sheldon Cohen.)novels for the stage, and has promoted Canadian children's literature through both his own books for children and his work as Canada's national librarian from 1999 to 2004. Carrier's children's book The Hockey Sweater is considered a classic, and his other books for young readers, including A Happy New Year's Day, The Longest Home Run, and The Flying Canoe, have also received positive recognition.

Illustrated by Carrier's frequent collaborator Sheldon Cohen and written for elementary-grade readers, The Hockey Sweater draws on the author's youth and also reflects Carrier's personal views on topics ranging from French-Canadian nationalism to the English-French language barrier. In the story, "a disastrous boyhood episode is fondly recreated," according to Horn Book reviewer Ethel L. Heins. Growing up in Sainte-Justine, a small town in rural Quebec, Carrier was something of an oddity: a boy who wanted to be a writer while most of his friends aspired to become lumberjacks. However, the boys were united by their idolization of the beloved Montreal Canadiens. In the story, the young Roch is understandably mortified when his mother presents him with a new jersey—that of the hated rival Toronto Maple Leafs. To make matters worse, Roch is expected to wear the dreaded blue-and-white in public. "The Hockey Sweater is a funny story," asserted School Library Journal contributor Joan McGrath, "but it is the fun of an adult looking indulgently back to remember a horrible childhood humiliation from the tranquil plateau of adulthood."

A sequel to The Hockey Sweater, The Boxing Champion again follows the life of young Roch as he strives to become a winning boxer despite the fact that his athletic talents are no match for those of the more durable Côte brothers. The boy appears again in A Happy New Year's Day, which features the author's recollections of New Year's Day 1941, including numerous details about his large extended family. "Carrier has filled his story with humour and an eye for the sort of clever details that many think children miss," remarked Linda Granfield in a review of the last-named title for Quill & Quire. Patricia L.M. Butler, writing in the Canadian Review of Materials, called A Happy New Year's Day "a story full of wonder, hope, joy and promise that should be felt by all each New Year's Day." Praising The Boxing Champion as a "humorously self-deprecating" tale, Norma Charles also cited Carrier's text for its "wit, lilt, and cadence" in a Canadian Review of Materials appraisal.

In The Basketball Player Roch reluctantly attends a seminary boarding school. Although he tries to make the best of it, after he is dealt with harshly by one of the school's priests and is forced to play basketball, a sport he despises, he runs away. On his own out in the dark, Roch experiences some fearsome realities that prompt his hasty return, and by accepting the encouragement of his new coach he finally makes his first basket. Welwyn Wilton Katz, reviewing The Basketball Player for Books in Canada, described the work as "a book about fear, and cold, and loneliness, about saying goodbye, about death," while Quill & Quire contributor Barbara Greenwood observed that Carrier's tale "ends on a wry note" featuring one of the author's "trademark subversive twists."

Carrier leaves his young alter-ego in several of his stories for younger readers but continues to infuses these seemingly simple tales with complex, adult-oriented themes. Set in 1940s Quebec, The Longest Home Run finds a boys' pick-up baseball game interrupted when a girl named Adeline asks to play. Accepted by the boys, she promptly hits the longest home run that any of the young players have ever witnessed; when asked who she is, Adeline gives her name and divulges that she is a magician associated with a traveling theater act visiting the area. The boys later attend the magic show, watch Adeline's father make her "disappear," and then are not allowed to see her anymore. Jetske Sybesma, writing in Canadian Children's Literature, commented on the story's wry commentary on the "older generation's stereotypical opinion about a girl's abilities which results in denying a talented child … the opportunity to develop her potential." A Kirkus Reviews critic, who called The Longest Home Run "another offbeat sports story" combining the talents of Carrier and illustrator Sheldon Cohen, concluded: "There's no real plot here, but the incidents are lively and amusing, while the near-surreal illustrations glow with energetic perspectives and intriguing comical details."

A group of lumberjacks stranded at a remote logging camp during Christmas find a way to return to their families with the help of a magic canoe in The Flying Canoe. (Illustration by Sheldon Cohen.)

Based on a French-Canadian folk tale, The Flying Canoe brings readers back to the mid-nineteenth century and introduces eleven-year-old Baptiste, who is working as a lumberjack in a remote logging camp. It is winter, and the loggers, homesick for their families due to the upcoming New Christmas holidays, use their dreams to fuel a plan whereby a canoe will magically transport them to their homes in time to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Dubbing Carrier "a master storyteller," Resource Links contributor Nancy Ryan praised the tale, noting that the author's retelling of "an enchanted space ride" will leave young listeners "enthralled." In School Library Journal Corrina Austin was also enthusiastic, writing that all the Canadian author's stories are praiseworthy vehicles capable of "transporting readers back in time to colorful historical settings and wonderful childhood perspectives."

Carrier's award-winning Prayers of a Very Wise Child, while not written explicitly for children, has as its basis the prayers of a seven-year-old narrator. Once again set in rural Quebec, this autobiographical work portrays a child's pious simplicity, his puzzlement at the presence of evil—the child wonders why God "kills" little children and allows wars to happen—and his growing awareness of the differences between boys and girls. "The simplicity of [a] child's prayers belies the complexities of life and one's ability to grasp them," main-tained Theo Hersh in the Canadian Review of Materials. Hersh added that "one of the beauties of Carrier's writing" is that the author "softens the blow of growing up with tender and poignant—and funny—remembrances of childhood." Quill & Quire commentator Daniel Jones asserted that Prayers of a Very Wise Child "succeeds by its richly comic invention," and in Canadian Literature reviewer John Lennox called the author "skilled at underlining the characteristics of human community and in using the child to illustrate the potential and limitations of human understanding."

Throughout his writing career, Carrier has been a strong supporter of a truly Canadian literature. In his role as national librarian of Canada, he advocated strongly for the preservation of a Canadian-centered literature; as David Kemper reported in the McGill University Graduate School of Library and Information Studies Web site, Carrier noted in a speech that if Canadians "do not preserve their own cultural and historical identity, other individuals, namely heavily funded Americans and their vast institutions, will record, perhaps incorrectly, Canada's past." He has extended this concern to the realm of Canadian children's literature, remarking to interviewers Alison Blackburn and Meagan Morash on the same Web site: "Why should the Americans always be the heroes?," referencing the books made available to young readers in Canadian public libraries. In a review with Diane Turbide for Maclean's, Carrier explained that, despite the lack of government funding for new artists, he nonetheless remains optimistic about the future of Canada's arts. "There would be no planes today if there hadn't been somebody, somewhere, who was dreaming of flying. It always starts with a dream. And artists are the ones who are dreaming. We need dreams…. Because dreams are vision, and people need vision."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Cameron, Donald, Conversations with Canadian Novelists, Macmillan of Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1973, pp. 13-29.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 53: Canadian Writers since 1960, First Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Carrier, Roch, Prayers of a Very Wise Child, Penguin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.


Books in Canada, April, 1997, Welwyn Wilton Katz, review of The Basketball Player, p. 34.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February, 1985, p. 102.

Canadian Children's Literature, Volume 69, 1993, p. 74; fall, 1994, pp. 77-79; winter, 1995, Jetske Sybesma, review of The Longest Home Run, pp. 90-91.

Canadian Literature, autumn-winter, 1989, pp. 209-211.

Canadian Review of Materials, March, 1992, Theo Hersh, review of Prayers of a Very Wise Child, p. 100.

Horn Book, March, 1985, p. 174; autumn, 1992, John Lennox, review of Prayers of a Very Wise Child, pp. 174-176; May, 1992, Ethel L. Heins, review of The Hockey Sweater, p. 371.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1993, review of The Longest Home Run, p. 716.

Maclean's, April 22, 1996, Diane Turbide, "People Need a Vision," pp. 81-82.

Quill & Quire, March, 1991, p. 20; March, 1993, p. 46; October, 1991, Daniel Jones, review of Prayers of a Very Wise Child, pp. 27, 30; November, 1991, Linda Granfield, review of A Happy New Year's Day, p. 26; March, 1992, Patricia L.M. Butler, review of A Happy New Year's Day, p. 78; June, 1994, p. 45; December, 1996, Barbara Greenwood, review of The Basketball Player, p. 36; February, 2000, Anita Lahey, "National Library Ushers in Change," pp. 12-13.

Resource Links, October, 2000, review of The Lament of Charlie Longsong, p. 49; February, 2005, Nancy Ryan, review of The Flying Canoe, p. 12.

School Library Journal, March, 1985, Joan McGrath, review of The Hockey Sweater, p. 164; July, 1991, pp. 54-55; February, 1992, pp. 71-72; April, 2005, Corrina Austin, review of The Flying Canoe, p. 120.


Canadian Review of Materials, http://www.umanitoba.ca/cm/ (September, 1991), Norma Charles, review of The Boxing Champion.

McGill University Graduate School of Library and Information Studies Web site, http://www.gslis.mcgill/ca/ (November 18, 2005), David Kemper, "Author Becomes National Librarian," and Alison Blackburn and Meagan Morash, interview with Carrier.

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