Emmett and Caleb

by May 27, 2019Book Review, Fiction, Picture Book

Book Details

Emmett and Caleb
Karen Hottois and Delphine Renon, (transl. Sarah Ardizzone), Bristol: Book Island, hb, 978 1 9114 9610 6, 2018, £11.99, 58pp.
Picture book, fiction, 3-8 years

Emmett and Caleb are friends. This does not mean they always like the same things, and sometimes this can cause a bit of friction. But for friends, there is always a way through difficulties – an invisible poem perhaps, with all the right words.

This gentle sequences of events follows two friends through a year from Spring to Winter, when we leave them with the snow falling, keeping each other warm. There are no great dramas, or rather there is the drama of a falling out; a drama young children will recognise, the unthinking cruelty of a criticism, the impulsive reaction. But then the solution. Emmett and Caleb are strange little creatures, creations of the artist’s imagination. However, this doesn’t matter, at heart they are children. Their function is to embed their difference and their relationship with each other.

The gentle narrative is mirrored by the pastel watercolour palette chosen by Delphine Renon. It is not, however, in any way bland; each season is evoked precisely – whether the burgeoning life of spring, the lazy heat of summer, the wind in the autumn and the austerity of the snow-covered landscape in winter. The attractive text is seamlessly translated by Sarah Ardizzone who captures the silences between the sentences; not everything needs to be spelt out.

This is a book to share, perhaps not with a large audience, but in the cosy comfort of a small group, or just two of you. It has a special charm that should not be overlooked in a time when noise, action and great emotions are all too present. There is value in quiet reflection – and here an author and an illustrator with a translator work together to deliver just that.

Review by FMH

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