Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Mommy is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill by Jean Regnaud and Emile Bravo

It's kind of interesting to see how libraries catalogue certain books.  My Mommy is in America...was originally published in France as a juvenile book.  In France  it has won several children's book awards.  It's now been translated into several different languages, including English, and is travelling the world. My library system in Canada has placed it in the adult graphic book section, where kids are never going to find it.  What's going on with that?  Are Canadian kids really so much less sophisticated than their French counterparts?  And if that's so, shouldn't we be bringing them more of this great stuff, not hiding it from them?

My Mommy is in you a child's viewpoint that feels just so authentic.  It's artful in the subtle way it conveys deep and unnamed emotions. It's moving, but never indulgent.  Small moments of pleasure and even humour counterpoint the understated sadness.

The story follows the life of young Jean during his kindergarten year.  Its emotional arc deals with the confusion Jean feels around his absent mother.  He hasn't seen her in a long time.  His businesslike father has told him that Mommy has gone on a long trip.  But why doesn't she write or call, and when will she be back? When he and his brother visit their grandparents, their grandparent's friends all  look at them sadly and moan "poor things!" and "how sad!".  Jean is embarrassed by being different than the other kids who all have Mommies living with them, and afraid that he is starting to forget what his Mommy was really like. 

Jean becomes even more confused when his neighbour, Michele, first swears him to secrecy and then starts reading him postcards from around the world that she claims come from Jean's Mommy! In the end it is Michele who vengefully tells Jean the truth about his Mommy's disappearance during a quarrel in which she also tells Jean that there is no Father Christmas.  Jean runs back to his house sobbing, but can't tell anyone about his loss of innocence.  The code of silence in his household is too strong.

In the end, I tell myself that Mommy is like Father Christmas... I'm too old now to believe in her.  

Here's a sample of Bravo's beautiful artwork, which complements the story perfectly.

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