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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bertolt, by Jacques Goldstyn. Translated from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick.Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2017. $22.95 ages 5 and up

"Most people do things together all the time. Like Mr. Buvard and his friends. Or the Berman brothers. Or Mrs. Brock and her knitting club. Or Ana-Marie and her friends. But me - I'm what you call a loner. I do stuff all by myself, and it doesn't bother me one bit. Just the opposite ... I love doing things by myself, but I love climbing my tree best of all."

Having helped raise an introvert, I love to read stories that honor who they are and how they feel. Jacques Goldstyn seems to know them well. His Bertolt captures the essence of a child who is introverted and seems not to mind at all. Can there be a better place to be than that?

This unnamed boy tells his story with acceptance and acknowledgement that he knows himself, and is not too concerned that others do not.

"My mitten wasn't there, so I took one
that doesn't match. Who cares.
I like it this way. Wearing two
different mittens is kind of funny."

He does have one especially favorite pastime. He loves climbing an old oak he has named Bertolt. Because it is cold in the throes of winter, he likes to imagine that spring will soon change Bertolt's bare branches into 'the coolest hideout ever'. He is the only one who climbs the old oak.

"The first branch must be 15 feet from the ground.
To reach it, you have to go up the trunk,
which is like a wall. But I know all of Bertolt's hollows
and where to put my hands and feet.
It's like climbing up a secret ladder."

And who doesn't love secrets ... and being alone ... and feeling at home? In fact, he is never alone on Bertolt's branches. There are all manner of birds and other creatures for company. All of his imaginings for spring spent in those branches come to a crashing halt when he realizes that Bertolt is not leafing out and must be dead. What can he do before Bertolt is turned into 'firewood, or furniture, or toothpicks'?

No problem!

Ink and colored pencils are used to create the moving and often humorous images. Sweet, but not too sweet, this lovely book honors the quiet, introspective kids born into our families, who are part of our classrooms and communities, who take pleasure from being alone, from playing outside, and from making a special friend of a tree whose branches sustain and protect. The wordless forays are worthy of careful contemplation. The artwork is simply stunning.
Please find a copy for yourself and share it with others.

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