Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez Reviews

The New York Times Book Review

Cover: Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez Author: Christiane Duchesne Illustrator: François Thisdale Publisher: Pajama Press

“[A] host of new picture books tackle ‘taking the ferry,’ staring down that overtly thwarting subject, and making it personal, peaceful and approachable.

In Christiane Duchesne and Francois Thisdale’s bewitching Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez, set in a small seaside town, a group of kids watch the mysterious comings and goings of a man who wears a bright red scarf and looks as if he has ‘clouds under his coat.’ His solitary meanderings through the cobblestone streets and his eccentric love of animals — he attaches wings to a cat’s back, strolls with a goldfish bowl on his head — go unnoticed by the adults. But to the children he is a fascination and delight….[Mister Rodriguez’s] absence prompts a strong sense of community as [the children] band together to say their goodbyes…Thisdale’s realistic yet dreamlike illustrations, windswept with mist and surreal painted skies, add to the sense of wonder.”
—Marisha Pessl

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School Library Journal

“Children often notice things that adults do not, especially when they are out of the ordinary….The story line speaks to the reality of death in a whimsical way, introducing it by way of it occurring to someone known by the children in the book but not someone with whom they were particularly close. VERDICT Young children beginning to learn about the concept of death will find this book to be an easy introduction to this inevitability in their lives.”
—Mary Lanni, formerly at Denver Public Library

Read the full review in the November 2019 issue of School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

“[A] surreal allegory…Acrylic and digitally altered artwork by Thisdale (Poetree) offers crisp, photographic realism, with misty skies of purple and green that suggest atmospheric otherworldliness.”

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Quill & Quire

“There’s no dearth of death in today’s children’s books. These days you can as easily find books on the loss of a parent as on the loss of a goldfish, and everything in between. And that’s okay. Stories are an excellent way to process a delicate but perennial, once-verboten topic.

Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez has found another gap to fill: what about the death of a neighbour, or those people you see every day but don’t know all that well? Those who, when they suddenly disappear, take a part of the community with them?…

No tears, no sentimentality, no explicit mention of death – it’s possible to read this book as a quirky story about a magical musician. It can also be appreciated just for illustrator François Thisdale’s gorgeous, painterly spreads, with their becalming greens, blues, and ochres. Either way, it boils down to the simple acknowledgement of a life, apparently well lived, by some young witnesses.”

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Resource Links

“Rating: E…The topic of death is a difficult subject for children, but Christiane Duchesne’s picture book has broached the topic in a light and nonchalant manner. For the children in the story, they see Mister Rodriguez as heading on a new journey and their only wish is for him to be happy. This method of introducing death in a picture book allows death to be not seen as a scary thing, but one that must be accepted and understood….

Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is an uncomplicated picture book delivering a message that young children can relate to without the sadness and gloom normally associated with death. The title may initially indicate that Mister Rodriguez is going on a different voyage, not the one that readers eventually discover in the story. Overall, Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is a perfect selection for sharing with young children, in a classroom, or a library setting.”
—Carmelita Cechetto-Shea

Read the full review on page 5 of the December 2019 Final Issue of Resource Links

Kirkus Reviews

“Observed by village children, an elderly man prepares for death in this misty allegory.”

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Midwest Book Review

“A beautifully crafted and charmingly entertaining picture book for children ages 5-8 by the team of author/storyteller Christiane Duchesne and illustrator/artist Francois Thisdale, Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, and community library collections.”

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CM Magazine

“The real magic of Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez is in the illustrations by Montrealer Francois Thisdale. 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

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CanLit for LittleCanadians

“Though the children did not weep for their loss of Mister Rodriguez, knowing that he was happy, I wept. I wept for an extraordinary man whose time had come to pass to the other side but who eased the passage of others with him. Though there is much for young readers to interpret about Mister Rodriguez and his existence on this plane and the next, they will appreciate the richness he brought to the lives of children who took pleasure in ‘seeing’ him walk through or above the street, his cap low on his forehead, his bright red scarf a beacon of his brightness and his overcoat light billowing ‘as if he had clouds under’ it. Christiane Duchesne’s text leaves open what the children actually see and what actually happened to Mister Rodriguez but still laces it with the heartfelt emotion of a dear friend’s passing.

Because of the surreal, perhaps supernatural, texture of Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez, François Thisdale’s illustrations, created with acrylic and digital media, have the perfect blend of the ethereal and the realistic. The foggy coastal town is ghostly with its overhanging mist and crashing waves and a man who may be intangible….

Picture books about death and dying are plentiful and all aim to help children understand loss and grief. But Bon Voyage, Mister Rodriguez presents the concept of death in a wholly unique fashion, leaving open what happens after we leave the physical world. Mister Rodriguez, along with a lovely assortment of companions, may transition from one world to the next under the watchful of a group of children but it’s evident that his life is far greater than just a physical presence in this world.”
—Helen K

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Canadian Bookworm

“Charming…I liked the innovative activity, the mystery of his actions, and the diversity of the children pictured here. I really loved the illustrations, with the mix of realism and fantasy and the detail of the different scenes.

This is a book that explores the imagination and leaves a lot for the reader to decide on their own. A beautiful book.”

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Mr. Alex’s Bookshelf

“[A] gentle tale that employs magical realism to elicit conversations about death and transitions….

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….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.”

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