Quill and Quire

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80 years of Q&Q: a look back at Canadian children’s publishing

CaillouCaillou’s custody battle

In 1989, Quebec illustrator Hélène Desputeaux and author Christine L’Heureux created an orb-headed character named Caillou for a series of books published by Les Éditions Chouette, of which L’Heureux was publisher. At the time, no one could have predicted either how successful Caillou – who started life as a toddler but is best known as the older character depicted in subsequent books, merchandise, and an animated television series – would be, nor that the two women responsible for his creation would end up engaging in a legal fracas over copyright and royalties spanning more than a decade.

While Desputeaux claimed she was Caillou’s true “mother” and that she had been bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties, L’Heureux stood by the 1993 contract that listed both women as co-authors and gave Chouette licensing rights. With an out-of-court settlement in 2005, it seemed the custody battle had finally come to an end. Then, in 2013, Canada Post announced plans for a commemorative stamp marking Caillou’s 25th anniversary. Desputeaux claimed that Chouette and L’Heureux stood to once again benefit unfairly from her work. Though Canada Post quietly abandoned plans for the stamp, one wonders if the bizarre battle over Caillou is really finished. – Dory Cerny