Thursday 8 June 2017

Bruno - Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So Far

Bruno - Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So Far by Katarina Valckx, illustrated by Nicolas Hubesch (Gecko Press) PB $19.99 ISBN 9781776571253

Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

The cover of this graphic novel to suit readers aged 5 to 9 years is very appealing with its simple cartoon style architecture and a small black cat, Bruno, as the main character. In some ways the content of this book is rather adult in its sentiment. To me it feels like the sort of story a parent would tell a child at the end of a trying day.

All the characters in this story are animals, with Bruno’s best friend being a horse called Ringo, his other friend Gloria being a shop keeping cow, Georgette the turtledove and his nemesis “the Dreadful Gerard” who is a grey wolf.

Six different days are examined in this book, the first being: A peculiar day, followed by, A rainy day, A day when the power went out, A stupid day (that ends pretty well), A much less interesting day and An almost perfect day.

Bruno is a rather compassionate little fellow who rescues smaller animals from a dire fate such as a tiny fish being forced to drink milk and nearly dying because it’s kept out of water. Bruno defends his little canary friend Tweety from an intimidating crow by letting out his ‘inner lion’ and roaring ferociously.

When Bruno’s friend Gloria calls him over to help her with a tiny problem – a canary flying around inside the shop he assesses the situation immediately:

“At Gloria’s, I saw the canary right away. He was all crestfallen.”

Hilariously, Tweety speaks but mixes up his words. Bruno is the only one who seems to understand him.

 “Caramel for the bridges,” Tweety said.
“You see? He talks nonsense.”
“Would you like to come on a picnic, Tweety?” I asked.
“Motorcoach,” Tweety replied, with a faint smile.

These stories are powerful in their simplicity with themes of friendship, compassion and awareness of differences. It reads more like an allegory or parable rather than a true story. Bruno has a matter-of-fact way of stating reality as he intuitively deals with the elements of his day, such as a car full of wild boars making a nuisance of themselves, or the situation where he had to let out his inner lion. After misunderstanding a situation with a raccoon and a crate of carrots, Bruno realises he can’t save everyone and always do the right thing.

“So much for helping the poor. I didn’t become a hero after all. At least, not that day. But I’d done my best and that’s not bad. (Ringo told me that to cheer me up.) Georgette suggested we go and get ice cream. The last item on my list! It’s not as easy as it seems to have a perfect day, but good ice cream helps a lot. Yum.”

In many ways Bruno represents the best in all of us, the inner coach who spurs us on to be optimistic about life and to do our best despite failures. I think this book is suitable not only for children but perhaps for adults too. There’s a really nice message here – an acceptance of what life throws at you and encouragement to hold onto simple faith in the goodness of things.

“That day, the power went out on my street. At night, so as not to be in the dark, I lit candles. It was very pretty. Since they don’t happen very often, I really like days when the power goes out.”

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