Saturday, March 30, 2019

Review - My Bright Friend

My Bright Friend
by Simon Boulerice
illustrated by Marilyn Faucher
Date: 2019
Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Now that his parents are separated, Ludo has two homes: one in the country with his mom, and the other in the city with his dad. The young boy doesn't like leaving the countryside and his friends to go to his father's apartment in the city, but he does find some entertainment in the liveliness of the apartment's neighborhood and the consistency of the flashing traffic lights on the street corner under his window. Fascinated by these lights, Ludo convinces himself (with the help of his father) that they are controlled by a tiny gentleman who sits inside the signal pole, flipping switches all day and night. Worried about his well-being, Ludo starts sneaking out to leave food for the man, and he soon makes a new friend in the big city.

A tender story, complemented by vibrant illustrations, that reminds us empathy and generosity are marvelous tools to overcome one's troubles.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I wanted to love this book. It sounds so cute! Unfortunately, it was a real disappointment.

First of all, I think it loses something in translation. Most grown men don't giggle like Ludo's dad does. Word choice may be an issue.

When I saw this was translated from the French, I assumed that it was from France. But the author and illustrator are actually from Quebec. That makes one part of the book rather troublesome. Ludo's dad tells him that a yellow light means "hurry up". I thought maybe France had weird laws where a yellow light means you blast through the intersection at top speed. But I'm pretty sure a yellow light means the same thing in Quebec as it does in the rest of Canada... so Ludo's dad is giving him a pretty irresponsible explanation.

Also, the synopsis states that Ludo convinces himself of the little traffic-man's existence with the help of his dad. That's not true. His dad is the one who plants the idea in the first place and convinces him of it. My dad used to joke about similar things with me and my sister... but he knew we were smart enough not to believe him. Ludo is completely credulous, which points to him either being not very bright... or not very old. And if he's not very old, he shouldn't be taking plates of bread and jam out to the street in the middle of the night by himself, and the book should definitely not be saying:

Ludo's dad had always told him to be careful and not go wandering the streets on his own. Ludo knew better.

Of course he knows better! He's a stupid kid who believes in little men who live inside the traffic-signal poles. Come on.

That brings me to my final complaint. There actually is a little man in the traffic signal operating the lights 24/7. I could've done without that bit of fantasy. It's also unrealistic (and dangerous) to have the little man changing the lights just for Ludo and his dad. I would've rather seen Ludo learn about how traffic lights actually work... but that would've blown apart the whole premise, which was that he made a friend in the big city. (Setting aside the appropriateness of a little boy becoming friends with an interaction-starved old man who lurks inside a pole, that part of the story is kind of weak.)

The illustrations are passably cute, and are perhaps my favourite thing about the book. Even so, they're not 100% consistent. Ludo's bedding changes a couple of times for no apparent reason (there's a patchwork quilt and plain sheets on the bed at night, and a plain quilt and sheets printed with cars during the day).

So, as I said before, this was a disappointment. The implausibility and weirdness of the actual man stuffed inside the pole are just too much for me, and there are a few iffy messages. I don't think I'd recommend this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orca Book Publishers for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

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