________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 11. . . .November 14, 2014



Rémy Simard. Illustrated by Pierre Pratt. Translated by Shelley Tanaka.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2014.
64 pp., hardcover & ePub., $18.95 (hc.), $16.95 (ePub).
ISBN 978-1-55498-451-0 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55498-452-7 (ePub).

Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***˝ /4



He's gone.

Gustave won't play with me anymore.

He won't tell me goodnight.

He won't look at me anymore.

The cat ate him.


When a little mouse and his friend Gustave decide to keep going farther and farther from home, they are blissfully unaware of the dangerous territory they are entering. Despite Mother's warnings about the existence of a cat, the curious two wander out into forbidden territory. A disaster befalls the adventurers when they are suddenly confronted with a monstrous huge-eyed cat. In what follows, Gustave makes a move which saves his friend:

I don't really know what happened.

He just made some little move.

Just enough for me to get away.

Run. Escape. Disappear...

internal art     But when the little mouse returns to find his friend, there is no sign of him. He is heartbroken. What can he say to his mother about Gustave? He finds his lonely way home, weeping. Mother understands. Instead of scolding her son, she holds him close and hands him a little stuffed mouse whose ears are soft pink like Gustave's.

"You will never be Gustave," I tell him.

"I know," he seems to say.

We look at each other...And I like him already.

     Gustave is what might be considered to be a darkly comic story. Its theme of disobedience leading to tragedy does not often surface in picture books for the five to eight age range. A surprise ending lightens the story a little, but the themes of danger and darkness (depicted in text and pictures) persist right up to the last two pages.

      Rémy Simard is a gifted artist and has illustrated many picture book over the last two decades. Gustave is his fourth collaboration with illustrator-author Pierre Pratt. The first was the award-winning My Dog is an Elephant, published in 1994.

      Gustave is a marvellous marriage of text and illustration. Dark colours and sharp-edged shadows dominate every page until the little mouse arrives home. Then, with Mother in the story, the mood and colours lighten up. It is not exactly a "happy" ending, but one which will resonate with young listeners who understand the affection that a stuffed toy can elicit. As a read-aloud with five to seven-year-olds, Gustave should spearhead some interesting discussion on topics such as risk-taking, friendship and disobedience!

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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