Book: Paul Meets Bernadette
Author: Rosy Lamb
Age Range: 4-8
Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb is one of those books that I didn't fully appreciate until I read it with my child. Paul is a goldfish who spends his time swimming around in circles. He doesn't have anything else to do. One day, Bernadette is dropped into his bowl, however, and changes his whole world. Instead of just swimming around the goldfish bowl, Bernadette takes note of the things she can see outside of the bowl. She identifies these things to Paul, though her knowledge proves to be somewhat lacking. Still, Paul is utterly charmed, and by the end of the book, he's not going around in circles, he's going around Bernadette, the new center of his world.
The part that my daughter loves about this book is the way that Bernadette mis-identifies things. She sees a banana and thinks that it's a boat. She sees a pair of glasses and declares it "a lunetta butterfly". A teapot becomes an elephant. And so on. These mix-ups make my daughter peal with laughter. Identifying the objects correctly makes her feel smart. All in all, these things make this a very interactive picture book.
What my daughter doesn't really notice, at four, is the way that Bernadette's misconceptions always expand the world in which she and Paul live. She doesn't see two fried eggs, she sees "the sun and the moon." She doesn't see milk and orange juice containers, she sees the city of "Milkwaukee." (A joke that will be over the head of most kids, but pleased me.) Bernadette takes what could be a dull, circumscribed existence and makes it ever-interesting. Paul gets this. After she identifies the sun and the moon he thinks: "And you, Bernadette, are my star."
Lamb's use of oil paints for the illustrations is a good choice. She's able to use swirls of colors to show the movement of the goldfish in the water, and to lend a textured appearance to everything that the fish see.
As with the objects on Paul and Bernadette's table, there's more to Paul Meets Bernadette than initially meets the eye. Paul Meets Bernadette is entertaining for kids, and gorgeous to look at, but also has a subtle, integral message about how people can make, and break free of, their own prisons. A standout picture book, recommended for home or library purchase.
Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick)
Publication Date: December 10, 2013
Source of Book: Library copy, checked out for Round 1 Cybils consideration in Fiction Picture Books. All opinions are my own.
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