Jo-Anne Elder Reviews Où tu vas, Emma? by Hélène deVarennes and Omar Al-Hafidh
Où tu vas, Emma?
Hélène deVarennes, illustrated by Omar Al-Hafidh
Bouton d’or Acadie
This is a bedtime rhyming book. Emma’s father wonders where his young daughter goes in her dreams. Each page shows a different scene under the light of a full, clear moon, with the cartoon Emma either inside the house with her father or out on an adventure.
In one image, Emma can be seen jumping over a fish in a river; a smiling wild animal bearing a resemblance to her pet cat is peering behind the trees. On the next, the animal is watching over Emma’s dark house.
Emma also appears as a Hallowe’en witch or a butterfly, with a choir of wolves, dancing elephants, laughing pigs, or an ewe knitting. By the end of the book, Daddy has fallen asleep, and the last page shows both of them smiling as they cuddle what look like giant, flying stuffies. The wilder of the two cats is floating a newspaper boat on top of the moon.
The rhythm gives the book a lullaby melody. The rhyming words are delightful and unexpected, reflecting the free-wheeling fantasies of young children who might populate the same dream with clouds, elephants and seashells, in one case, or with butterflies, candies, pigs and sheep (which all end in the same sound in French) in another.
This also makes for pictures with lots to look at and to surprise the reader. The pictures of Emma’s dreams are rich and entertaining, and the colours used are darker and more complex than the pastels used in many children’s books, adding extra interest.
Hélène deVarennes also wrote the French text of the trilingual book A Pony Day! She works as an educator and cultural consultant and creates teaching resources for early childhood education and First Nations studies. Omar Al-Hafidh, originally from Iraq, graduated from Sheridan College with a BAA in animation. He is based in Toronto and previously illustrated two books by Rana Azzoubi.