Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez
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Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez
Mister Rodriguez is an urbane-looking older gentleman with white hair and mustache. He sports a beret, a dark coat and a long red scarf as he makes his way through the streets of a seaside town. A group of older children, which grows larger as we turn the pages, observe his activities, noticing that, with his long stride, “it looked as if he had clouds under his coat. Or maybe balloons”. They are always interested in Mr. Rodriguez’ activities and speculate about what will occur next with their unusual quarry.
This daily constitutional begins at precisely four o’clock. With the children peeking around corners and a variety of small animals often to be spied in the frame, the action becomes increasingly fantastical as one particular week progresses.
[On Monday] a dove fluttered down and settled on the tip of his shoe.
Very gently, Mister Rodriguez attached a fine silk thread around her foot.
And off they went!
We wondered…what would happen on Thursday? None of the adults
seemed to notice Mr. Rodriguez coming and going.
On Thursday, a cat slowly limped up to Mr. Rodriguez.
He tied a pair of wings to the old kitty’s back.
The culmination of this surprising week sees Mr. Rodriguez flying off into the blue on Sunday atop a grand piano, accompanied by the dove, the winged cat, a goldfish in a bowl and a small white terrier which is one of the animals to have made a frequent appearance throughout the story.
The young watchers write a message with large stones on the beach (an envoi which is doubtless visible from Mr. Rodriquez’ airborne piano), knowing that they will probably never see the amazing old man again. “BON VOYAGE, MR. R.”
Christiane Duchesne is a veteran writer for screen and radio as well as being the author of a number of books for children. Here, her matter-of-fact style of delivery belies the surreal nature of Mister Rodriguez’ activity. (Although the author thanks Carolyn Perkes for her translation in the book’s dedication, there is no indication in the publishing information that the text was originally written in French.)
The real magic of Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is in the illustrations by Montrealer Francois Thisdale (The Stamp Collector (http://umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol19/no12/thestampcollector.html That Squeak http://www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol22/no11/thatsqueak.html ). The blue and grey backdrops of sky and sea are at once misty and luminous, grounded by the pretty shuttered buildings and the solid human figures, emphasizing the juxtaposition of the reality of a continental town with some pretty unusual plot elements.
Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is a rather special picture book for larger collections.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia.