Paula Knows What to Do
Paula Knows What to Do
Daddy won’t get out of bed. He has, it appears, been immobilized by the loss of Paula’s mother. Paula, an eager little girl who looks to be about six, misses Mommy too, but she has an idea about how to help her father’s situation.
“I know what to do,” says Paula. “Mommy loved to go sailing.
Will you come sailing with me?”
“But, Paula,” says Daddy. “I just want to stay in bed.”
“Nonsense,” says Paula (exactly the way Mommy used to say it).
“We are going sailing. Mommy would want us to.”
She gets a jar of water, a large sheet of paper, and some paints.
Paula’s simple painting of a sail boat sweeps her and Daddy out onto the sea. There is the sunny beginning to the outing, with the breeze ruffling their hair, but then an approaching storm brings howling winds and waves that are “sky-high”. Father and daughter grab onto the sail which lifts them up into the air, over some verdant countryside, and then brings them gently back down – to Daddy’s bed.
This time, Daddy know what to do.
“I’ll make coffee for me and hot chocolate for you. But today,
we don’t need a book. We’ll just look at your paintings again.”
“Are you still sad, Daddy?”
“I am. But not as much. I’m so glad you knew what to do.”
Watercolour illustrations depict the naturalistic figures of a small child in pajamas and her unshaven father who are taken from a bedroom and whirled up into an imaginary adventure. The backdrops move from the cosily domestic to open blue water to the dark, forbidding skies of the storm. The spread near the beginning which shows Paula kneeling on the floor to start her painting of the sailboat, with a wide-eyed teddy bear looking on, is especially affecting. There is a clever repetition of a large white expanse of cloth with prominent red dots which functions both as Daddy’s bedsheet and the sail of the painting-inspired boat.
Author and illustrator Sanne Dufft, who is also an art therapist, is German. However the book comes from the Toronto-based publisher Pajama Press, and it seems to have been published as an English-language original.
Paula Knows What to Do, a gentle piece of bibliotherapy, is probably not for all collections, but it would be useful in discussions of feelings and of the loss of a parent.
Ellen Heaney is a retired children’s librarian living in Coquitlam, British Columbia.