Joseph Fipps by Nadine Robert, illustrated by Geneviève Godbout, translated by Claudia Z. Bedrick
Like many 5-year-olds, Joseph Fipps is a never-resting ball of energy. Which means things like potted plants, wall hangings, ladders, and anything else in the way of his adventures might not necessarily remain intact. His mother calls him Gremlin for all his “kind of silly” bumps and knocks and overturned this-and-thats. He’d rather be Griffin, and “fly all around in the big blue sky.”
When his lofty baby bird search is indignantly interrupted by his mother’s scolding voice, Joseph can contain his anger no more. “‘You always say ‘no’!” he blurts out. “‘I can never do anything. You’re mean and I want another mommy.'” Uh-oh. Even more surprising is Mommy’s quick agreement. “‘All right,'” she tells him. “‘I know a mommy who might be wiling to have you. It’s a walrus mommy and she lives on the banks of the North Pole.'”
Shocked and not a little worried, Joseph runs out of the house “to sulk” down by the edge of the river. In that gray area between reality and daydreaming, Joseph meets his new walrus mother, who even knows to call him “‘little griffin.'” And yet however kind and playful his new Mommy Walrus is, at the end of the day (literally), he’s left feeling cold and alone, realizing he doesn’t really have the wings to carry him home. Uh-oh, again: so what’s a little fur-less, wingless five-year-old boy named Joseph to do …?
If this first collaboration is any indication, the author/illustrator team of Nadine Robert and Geneviève Godbout have certainly proven to be quite the delightfully creative pair. Robert’s mischievously heartwarming story is an adorable reminder about the unbreakable bonds of family, be you griffin, walrus, newborn bird, or a rambunctiously curious little boy called Joseph. Godbout’s dreamy, whimsical, color-pencil pictures gently enhance the text with wide-open curiosity (that cat’s no-words-needed expressions!), utter wonder (tiny Joseph’s longing gaze up at the comparatively infinite tree), foot-stamping frustration (holding his ears against the “‘I’ve told you this a hundred times'”!), and ever so much love. With such a joyful debut – gratitude is due to fabulous indie publisher Enchanted Lion Books for importing (and translating) the dynamic duo Stateside! – what Robert and Godbout might produce next will inarguably be well worth reading and celebrating both.
Published: 2012, 2014 (United States)