Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review - Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez

Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez
by Christiane Duchesne
illustrated by François Thisdale
Date: 2019
Publisher: Pajama Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A growing number of curious children discover their village’s most enigmatic figure has an unexpectedly beautiful job to do.

Every afternoon at four o’clock, Mister Rodriguez steps out of a narrow laneway and strolls through the street. The village children watch him go, ever more curious about the enigmatic old man with the bushy white mustache. Some say they’ve seen him float above the ground. Others say he played a piano without touching a single key. The truth, though, is more beautiful than any of the children could have imagined. Author Christiane Duchesne and TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award-winning illustrator François Thisdale bring a touching story to life with delicacy and heart.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

What a strange little book. I mean, I get it... but I'm not sure if I really like it or not.

Mister Rodriguez is an odd character. One week, the children notice that he's being accompanied by various animals (many of them old and decrepit). Each day, it's a different animal, with Mister Rodriguez floating along with them. At the end of the week, Mister Rodriguez disappears.

The guy is obviously some sort of angel or spirit who helps animals cross over to the other side. But knowing that just brings up more questions. Why did he only start helping the animals that week? Did nobody's pet die before then? Why did he hang around acting all shifty and suspicious for years beforehand? Was he just waiting until his own death was imminent so he could take a bunch of animal spirits with him? Did he actually die? All sorts of possibilities are implied, but never explained.

I'm not really a fan of the illustrations here. The backgrounds are nice, and Mister Rodriguez and the animals are fine. But the kids are downright creepy. There's an uncanny quality to them that doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the artwork.

There might be an audience for this among kids who have recently lost a pet, but even then I'm a bit skeptical. While the story is original and the illustrations cleverly hint at what's really going on, the book as a whole doesn't quite work for me. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pajama Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

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