Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez
Author: Christiane Duchesne
Illustrator: François Thisdale
Ages: 5 to 8 years old, Grades PK to 3
. . . a gentle tale that employs magical realism to elicit conversations about death and transitions.
I remember seeing the man in the morning, standing by the mailbox, as I left for school. He was wearing a coat and tie. “Someone will see if he needs anything,” I thought. We lived on the premises of the family business. People around in the morning was not an unusual occurrence. Seven hours later, when I returned, he was still there. Same man. Same coat. Same tie. I didn’t think much of it. “The man left and came back,” I thought. I was wrong.
When I entered my house, mom was sitting on the couch crying. She was clutching my Grandparents’ wedding picture. She had just been told my Grandmother had passed. I looked at the picture and gasped. I saw my Grandfather. Same Coat. Same tie. The man outside, was my Grandfather. He had died 10 years earlier.
These memories came flooding back as I read Bon Voyage Mister Rodriguez, by Christiane Duchesne, a gentle tale that employs magical realism to elicit conversations about death and transitions.
Every day at 4:00 p.m., Mr. Rodriguez strolled through the cobblestoned streets of his quiet, coastal town while the children watched him, enraptured. One day, they knew the walk would be different, even though they didn’t know why. On that day:
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!Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez
Mr. Rodriguez and the dove floated above the cobblestone. From that day forward, Mr. Rodriguez walked with other animals, each in turn, floating over the cobblestone. On Sunday, the last day the children saw him, they found a way to say their goodbyes.
Deep Breath. Let’s start with what this book is not. This book is not Death for Dummies. This book makes you work. And think. So, if you’re not interested in having a discussion with your child about transitions and death, this book may not be for your family. If you’re looking for a book that is filled with symbolism, beautiful (and naturalistic) illustrations that are sweeping in scope, and a gentle approach to “what it all means,” then you should pick up a copy.
Duchesne masterfully weaves a simple tale that elicits questions and provides few answers thereby creating necessary discussion. Death, after all, is a subject that is worthy of discussion and necessary to understand. We fear what we don’t understand. And, as humans, we don’t understand a lot. By providing a strong through-line, supplemented by strong visual cues in the crisp illustrations, Bon Voyage Mister Rodriguez lets you embark on a journey of understanding–that you get to take with you into your very own set of traditions.
As I’ve told parents and caretakers for years, reading with your child (not to your child) requires more than just passively reading a story. It requires reading and discussing the elements–analysing the prose. (See here.) Filled with imagery and symbolism, the story is accessible on many different levels: be it a magician wandering through town, a spirit helping animals with their passing, a man on his own journey through death, or some other journey. Where you take the discussion is up to you and the child you engage with.
Strolling over cobblestone is hard, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. This book should help you float over the trickier spots; just like Mr. Rodriguez.
Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez (Hardcover at Amazon)*
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.
My thanks to Pajama Press for providing a complimentary copy of this book. The views expressed herein are my own.
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