Saturday, April 24, 2010


By Chris Wilson

Author: Jean Regnaud
Illustrator: Émile Bravo
Translator: Vanessa Champion
Publisher: Fanfare, Ponent Mon
Genre: Realist Fiction

Format: Hardcover
Pages: 120
Color: Full color
ISBN-13: 978-84-96427-85-3

On my way out the door to my daughter’s cheerleading/gymnastics practice, I grabbed MY MOMMY: IS IN AMERICA AND SHE MET BUFFALO BILL thinking it would

  1. Be a quick read for me
  2. Be a cute book for my primary students

I was right about it being a quick read (45 min) but I was completely wrong in thinking it was appropriate for children.

I equate MY MOMMY with, say, a powerful and mostly over-looked independent film. The portrayal of children is eerily quaint and unsettling but accurate in terms of both the sadness many kids experience, and the accuracy with which the child’s mentality is written.

Young Jean has no idea his mother isn't on vacation. We know something is wrong because we are adults who have lived and we know what he's in for; it is not pleasant although it is life – real life. I teach little boys and girls like this everyday. Progressing through the comic it becomes clear that the time for the purposefl delusion of poor Jean, by those who are around him, is at its end.

To hear of one’s mother’s death from the next-door neighbor is unconscionable, but nonetheless a reality for Jean. The fact that he finds out about Father Christmas – this is a French story – at the same time means little Jean’s childhood ends abruptly.

“That evening in bed, I tell myself that Mommy is like Father Christmas … I’m too old now to believe in her …”. The image following this text is so childlike yet heart wrenching that I cannot bear to describe it to you. It makes me too sad.

Regnaud ends the story with an amazing childlike clarity and resolve. Jean is not depressed and ready to die. He is not angry, at least on the outside. He does what children do: He moves on. Jean goes back to school to find a new teacher, a much younger teacher, who is erasing the goodbye message from the old and hateful teacher. This one seems nice and we can tell that Jean will live. How well-adjusted and happy he will be is unknown, but I have my suspicions.

It’s not a happy story; it’s not a pretty-ribbon story. MY MOMMY is an authentic story, one that deserves its place among the highly acclaimed. Its sum is greater than its 120 pages and it is worth the read, even if it is a gut-punch of worse things likely to come.

Bravo makes use of frameless panels, or if you prefer, panels without black outlines bordering them. He does not always use this technique, but it makes up the bulk of the pages. It’s something I’ve seen with other French comic creators.

The backgrounds are uncluttered, often completely muted, giving a nice center to the characters. The lettering is also distinct from traditional uppercase fonts. It’s quite easy to read, but strikingly different from the American norm.

Chris’ Rating: High school
There is nothing overly difficult regarding the decoding of text. The vocabulary is straightforward and uncomplicated. It is the content of the story that makes the book most appropriate for older readers.

The story takes on serious and painful topics such as parental abandonment, death and the revelation of Saint Nick.

If I were a child development, counseling, psychology, or social work instructor I would use MY MOMMY in class to discuss the nuts and bolts of child behavior and prepare my students for the world that awaits their profession.

Highly Recommended with Reservations
I have no complaints about MY MOMMY. It is brilliant. However, I think thigh school eachers should use caution because of the power of the story and the immediate connections and emotional ramifications MY MOMMY might bring to the surface in some students. I am inclined to think of this book as most appropriate (and Highly Recommended) for college students and adults.

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