Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pierre in Love and moi aussi

The first time I read anything by Petra Mathers I was a children's librarian in Maryland and I was shelfreading the M picture books. Francophone that I am, I can sniff out a French rodent (or chien) with my eyes closed. Anyway Theodor and Mr. Balbini (sadly out of print) is about about a dog who decides he wants to live with Madame Poulet his French teacher instead of Mr. Balbini his owner. When Mr. B goes to visit Theodor he falls in love with Mme. Poulet's pooch Josephine and takes her home. Oh sheer joy to have discovered this writer! I love her love. Needless to say, whenever I find a Mathers book I pounce on it with a low growl. Sophie and Lou is one of my daughter's favorite books and it too is sprinkled with frenchisms and sweet deferred love. I found it when I visited the Eric Carle Museum and bought it without realizing Petra had signed it. Sophie has a very tidy house. She is a dancer just like Catherine in Pierre but she doesn't know how to so she teaches herself by observing the students at the dance studio across the street. She paints the dancing steps on her floor and takes out books from the book mobile. The librarian is someone famous! Sophie has an admirer who passes her window each day, but she is oblivious. The last line in the book, "'You bet,' said Sophie, and stepped into his arms."
Pierre in Love is about a fisherman in love with the ballet teacher Catherine. Alas, he is shy and leaves gifts at her door until she catches him one night. She tells him she loves another and Pierre must pull himself together somehow and carry on. As fate or love would have it, Pierre is her beloved. She only knows Pierre in his fisherman garb out at sea and not in fancy togs in the dark at her doorstep. The page where she declares her love in pictures is magnifique!!

Rutgers University's eclipse project has digitized the entire record of Petra Mathers' manuscript and artwork for her book Kisses From Rosa. Here, you can view the dummy, several drafts of the manuscript, correspondence with her publisher and family photos.
I think this is the kind of work that those of us in this field should be championing, supporting, and writing grants for.