With three Eisner nominations, a French Essentials Award, and the Tam Tam Literary Award, My Mommy is in America and she met Buffalo Bill was already a well-respected comic book. Last week at the Frankfurt Book Fair it was also awarded the German Youth Literature Prize (worth 8,000 Euros, among other things).
My Mommy was originally written in French by Jean Regnaud and illustrated by Émile Bravo, and is available in an English translation by Vanessa Champion and Elizabeth Tierman for those of us who aren’t literate in French or German. It’s an excellent autobiographical story and worth checking out — I got a copy at Comic-Con this year and my wife and I both enjoyed it.
Jean lives with his father, his little brother and their nanny Yvette — his mother is deceased, but he doesn’t know that. The book is basically about Jean’s eventual discovery of this secret and realization about his mother, and it’s a story that is told with both candor and humor. As seen through young Jean’s eyes, we realize pretty quickly that his mother isn’t just away on a trip, and we understand the way that other adults treat Jean and his brother with sympathy, even though he himself has no idea.
His neighbor, Michelle, tells him that his mother has been sending her postcards. They’re a secret, she says, and since Jean hasn’t learned to read yet she reads them to him. His mother, according to these postcards, is having all sorts of adventures and traveling all over the world (including America). Jean loves to hear the news about his mother, but wonders why they’re to be kept a secret, even from his father and his brother. And why won’t Michele let him keep the postcards for himself?
Regnaud has done a tremendous job of taking a very personal story and turning it into something beautiful. Bravo’s artwork is pitch-perfect, a good balance between cartoons and realism. At times the characters speak in pictures, and it has a feel of a silent movie; it’s wonderful because those segments transcend language barriers. The book may not be appropriate for very young children, simply because of the subject matter, but it’s great for older kids and adults.
My Mommy is published by Fanfare|Ponent Mon, and you can read a small excerpt on their website. (Look for the My Mommy image on the left.) See for yourself why this touching story has been winning prizes worldwide.
Disclosure: Fanfare provided a review copy of the book.