TREMONT— When Katrina Linscott tells her students that dogs can understand French, it tends to blow their minds.
“It’s just what you’re used to hearing,” she explains, but it often opens the door to a world outside of their English-speaking reality.
Over the last seven years she has been working on a tool to help students and teachers connect to the language and culture of Quebec. And she used a French-speaking dog named Disco to help tell the story in her recently-published book, “Disco and Me/Disco et Moi.”
“I’d love to have it be in classrooms,” said Linscott, who has taught French for the last 15 years. “I taught with it last year.”
Not only did Linscott write the 35-page book, but she also did all of the illustrations for the bilingual story that begins in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier. It is told in first person by a young boy on a trip to Quebec with his family. Each page features the story in English and in French.
When he hears, “Allez, Disco, allez,” (go, Disco, go) he sees a dog in the river next to where he is walking and is “jolted by the realization that the dog understands French!”
“Kids can relate to dogs,” said Linscott in a recent interview with the Islander. “The stories were inspired by the trips I take with the kids to Quebec City.”
Her process began with the illustrations. Done in colored pencil, each one took at least 40 hours to complete.
“It’s hard to do when you’re working full time,” said Linscott who teaches French to the students at Tremont Consolidated School and the Cranberry Isles school. “The illustrations really tell the story. I do a lot of layering of the colors; combine images.”
Creating the characters and settings was a community effort. Linscott used her friend’s dog as a model, took photos of scenes around Quebec when visiting with students, set up a Quebec-themed dinner with friends and captured a local musician for scenes drawn in the book.
“When I illustrated, I definitely needed pictures,” said Linscott, who incorporated Quebecois expressions and symbols in the drawings and as page markers.
In addition to using it in her classroom, Linscott offered it to teachers of French in a couple of the other elementary schools on Mount Desert Island.
“It’s hard to find books that are written at a novice level,” she said about why she was inspired to create the book. “I was able to do it well with middle school students. We’d learn about landmarks in Quebec entirely in French.”
Features and featured events, such as the Carnaval of Quebec and its representative, Bonhomme, the Chateau Frontenac and Battlefields Park, among other winter wonders in the city of Quebec, are all part of the story of “Disco and Me/Disco et Moi.”
Originally Linscott had planned a series of library talks with the book, but the pandemic has deterred that for now. A month after its publication, Linscott is beginning a new school year and working on getting the book in the hands of other educators.
“I’m trying to contact teachers around New England,” she said. “I’ve written a teacher guide to go with the story that needs polishing too.”
Those interested in learning more or ordering a copy of the book can visit katrinalinscott.com or go to indieauthorbooks.com/childrens/disco-and-me/. Soft covered versions of the book can be purchased at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop in Bar Harbor.