Friday, June 24, 2022

Review: Noor and Bobby by Praline Gay-Para

Today's read greets from France, has received attention around the world, and is finally being translated into English. Tales of children and their love for their animals always make me smile, and this one promises a different twist. With the current situation in the Ukraine (and other constant turbulences around the world), this book does open up to the theme of war and those affected directly by it to younger readers. Now, this isn't a theme I brought up with my own kids, since it would have worried them quite a bit (sensitive children). However, we did visit a war zone firsthand when they were young, and they took it rather well.

Okay, I'm going to make a slightly longer post today because this was quite the experience... 

We visited Croatia on a camping trip about 8-10 years after the war there had ended. While the northern shoreline of the country is well-built out for tourists, just a few miles drive into the interior paints a very different picture. We drove through minefields...literally, with signs every few feet on both sides warning about getting out of the car. We drove past ghost towns, where the destroyed buildings due to shelling portrayed very visible bullet holes and haunted with the devastation. And we saw clumps of houses/shacks, which still stood with basic repair and were lived in, but not with the standards and conditions you and I are blessed with and know. Not even close. My kids were very young (13, 11, 5, 3) and, except for the 3-year-old, will never forget and were left with a very strong impression.

That said, here's today's read....and my thoughts about it.

by Praline Gay-Para
Illustrated by Lauranne Quentric
Picture Books
48 pages
ages 4 to 8

OCTOBER 25th!!!

In a besieged city, Noor watches as his neighbors pack their bags and flee their homes—but a dog named Bobby is left behind. As Noor sets out across the ravaged city to save him, he discovers pockets of life and hope in this moving story of friendship in the face of adversity.

Then Noor goes off again
to find his dearest friend.

“Bobby, Bobby, where are you?
Bobby, Bobby, can I come, too?”

When Noor’s canine friend Bobby disappears from their apartment building one afternoon, Noor sets off on a perilous journey to find him. Noor stumbles through abandoned buildings and navigates streets cluttered with downed planes, barbed wire, and items left behind by fleeing residents. While searching for Bobby, Noor comes across other animals in the rubble of the city in need of his help. He frees a bird tangled in barbed wire, builds a shelter for a cat and her kittens, and is finally reunited with his beloved Bobby. Beautiful paper-cut collage illustrations highlight the realities of war as the brightness of Noor and his animal friends sharply contrasts with the desolate cityscape.

With its tender illustrations and animal-loving protagonist, Noor and Bobby is a compassionate and empathetic introduction to displacement and the realities of war and a heartwarming story of friendship from prolific French-Lebanese author Praline Gay-Para.



With very serious undertones, this is a read which shines with the warmth of friendship and never dying hope.

Everyone has left the neighborhood, leaving only Noor, his family, a neighbor lady and a dog. When the neighbor finally takes off in a cab herself, Noor's last possible friend is the dog, but the dog immediately tries to chase after the cab and gets lost. Noor does his best to find his last friend and discovers quite a bit along the way.

While the tale doesn't state exactly why everyone has left the neighborhood, the illustrations and scenes allow the war tattered buildings and rubble to build their own subtle tale. (Would a cab still visit such a place, I wonder). This background only becomes clear as the story progresses, leaving the reader/listener to wonder what's happening as it settles in. On one hand, I found it distracting because this 'why' question takes up so much thought space that it was hard to stay centered on Noor's search and small adventures, but on the other hand, it's a gentle way to really let the situation sink in. I did have to read the book twice in order to let the full atmosphere hit. So, I'm undecided on this front.

The story of Noor and his search for the dog, Bobby, is masterfully done. The text works its magic with little said and, yet, enough to make the scenes sit. Noor wanders through the neighborhood, meeting various animals, which need help. It's touching and offers tons of hope as he spreads kindness. Especially the end will leave a smile. It's a positive tale, on this front, which marks the warmth of friendship and does show that good always exists.

The illustrations are well done and, as said before, let the truth behind the tale unfold. In a scene or two, there are shadows of the missing children/people shown to make the loss tangible. The war scenes are subtle, but do show bullet holes, broken windows and such. It hits with enough reality to bring across what happened without being overwhelming. 

This is a well done tale, which shines with hope and friendship. Noor's family is never shown and only mentioned with one word in the beginning, which I found a bit dark since it left the reader feeling as if Noor were truly alone for the rest of the read...many younger listeners will have trouble because of this. Even the war idea, while well done, will have to be brought across with care. And yet, this story touches the heart and does open the eyes. This just isn't a book meant for every reader in the intended age group and, while meaningful, will have to be brought over with consideration and explanation.

And here they are...

Praline Gay-Para is a French-Lebanese storyteller, author, and actress. She’s written numerous books for children and adults often based on her reflections about traditional folktales and life stories from Lebanon. In addition to her work as a writer and translator, Praline also collaborates with the theater company PavĂ© Volubile to produce plays and live performances. She currently lives in Paris.

Lauranne Quentric is an illustrator based in Brittany, France. She has illustrated dozens of children's books and also creates intricate marionettes and sculptures for children’s theater events. Her work has been featured in exhibitions of children’s book illustrations across France.

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