________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 2 . . . .September 15, 2006


Where in the World.

Marie-Francine Hébert. Illustrated by Janice Nadeau. Translated by Sheila Fischman.
Montreal, PQ: Smith, Bonappétit & Son, 2005.
48 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 1-897118-14-7.

Subject Headings:
Deportation--Juvenile fiction
Refugees--Juvenile fiction
Children and war--Juvenile fiction

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Sylvia Pantaleo.

**** /4



Rumours of travel were drifting through the house. A trip? Zolfe had been dreaming of travel for so long! Fleeting at first, those rumours. Words tiptoed out of her parents’ room. Leave, go away – words that by nightfall were chewing away at the silence. More and more insistent, those rumours. Whole sentences, their wings fluttering around the ear as if around a nest.


Why are Zolfe’s parents talking about leaving? Because of war. One morning, three masked and armed men burst into Zolfe’s home and give her family two minutes to vacate the premises. Zolfe is horrified when she recognizes that one of the intruders is the father of her friend, Maiy. Zolfe escapes to her room with precious time to decide what to take with her. Her favourite book, The Dream Jar, given to her by Maiy? No, she has memorized the story and the illustrations. Zolfe decides to take her fish, Émil, named for her beloved grandfather and given to Zolfe by her grandmother. Thus, she trudges in line with the others carrying the universe of Émil. Her father and older brother are marched off into the woods and an “ear-splitting shot” is heard. The group continues marching, and other mothers and children join the line of incredulous people. Zolfe sees her school ablaze and witnesses her teacher pursued and shot. She also recognizes other community members behind the masks – former neighbours and friends who are murdering and/or forcing fellow citizens into exile. As these seemingly surreal events unfold, Zolfe takes refuge in the words, events and illustrations in The Dream Jar. However, as the march continues, Zolfe’s arms become weary, and her mother instructs her to leave Émil in his fishbowl at the side of the road. Fortunately, her friend Maiy, who risks punishment by sneaking out of her house, takes Émil from Zolfe. The girls gaze at one another, and then Zolfe is ordered to move on.

     The ambiguous context of the story heightens the realization that the events experienced by Zolfe and her family could happen to anyone anywhere in the world. Hébert’s thought-provoking narrative is told in a forthright manner without criticism or condemnation. The story is powerful, provocative and disturbing. The narrative about Zolfe and her family is woven with text and illustrations from The Dream Jar, Zolfe’s favourite book. A double-page spread from The Dream Jar is superimposed on several pages, appearing simultaneously as both a separate narrative and as part of Zolfe’s narrative. On several pages, Hébert merges the fantastic and the realistic stories in the book by including phrases from the text of The Dream Jar in Zolfe’s narrative.

      Janice Nadeau won the 2004 Governor’s General award for illustrator of a French language book for the illustrations in Where in the World, originally published in French as Nul Poisson où Aller. The predominantly grey tone watercolour illustrations convey the melancholy atmosphere of the story. The artwork of the double-page spreads from The Dream Jar are painted in colour. Nadeau also includes splatters of colour on other pages to symbolize hope in this human drama of war. Indeed, many of the illustrations encapsulate symbolism on many levels. This award-winning sophisticated picturebook deserves multiple readings.

Highly Recommended.

Sylvia Pantaleo teaches language arts courses in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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