I’m not sure what to think of this book. It is very modern with the content but has a soft classic tone to the language. Are you supposed to think the child will (spoiler alert) be gay? (Or I should say, he is gay, but later will come out?) Or are you supposed to believe he is just a pure child? He just cares for (therefore loves) his friend. Simple as that. There is no deeper meaning.
The fact the parents are very realistic is refreshing. They ignore the fact that Jerome is “different” from other boys but also comment (in a sideways manner) he is not “like other boys.” And when Raphael (the narrator) comments a certain way about how he feels, the father’s reaction is very telling. While it is not ideal, or a nice response, it is a good look how many people can be. The fact is, not everyone is going to accept the fact a child is “different” from the stereotypes or is more sensitive if they are male, makes it true to life. It is not just a “oh we’ll love you no matter what” story. It is not a “oh laa laa everything is Utopia and no bad things ever happen and everyone loves you” but a mixture of both the good and not so good.
The one issue I have is that in some ways the illustrations do take away from the powerful message, but also make it so it is not LISTEN UP TELLING A MORAL STORY HERE. Oliver Tallec is talented and I do not see another author for this book. This is a tricky subject to deal with to allow it to be accessible to all people and I think Thomas Scotto and Tallec have balanced well. Calaudia Bedrick’s translation might be a little choppy to some ears but helps make this poetic and less daunting.