November 18, 2014

The Fabulous World of Mr. Fred

by Lili Chartrand
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
32 pp.
Ages 5+
September 2014

The award-winning Monde fabuleux de Monsieur Fred (Dominique et Compagnie, 2012) has finally been translated into English, introducing new readers to the beautifully illustrated story of friendship, imagination and stories.

Pierrot is a daydreamer, a young boy who loves stories and using his imagination.  Coming across an older man sitting on a park bench and reading an invisible book, the boy introduces himself and joins the man, Mr. Fred.  Instead of treating the man as crazy, Pierrot encourages Mr. Fred to share the stories in his book.  Invited back, Pierrot enjoys Mr. Fred's magical stories, delighting in their mesmeric quality and the joy the story-teller derives.  Finally Mr. Fred feels comfortable to disclose his own story, revealing a tragedy that leads him to meeting Pierrot.  And, though Pierrot tries to excite other children about Mr. Fred and his book, they laugh at him.  That is, all but one little girl, Lila.  Sadly Lila never meets Mr. Fred.  But his friendship and stories become the catalyst for Pierrot and Lila's friendship and future.

Lili Chartrand's lovely story about the healing nature of friendship and the gift of imagination is enhanced with Gabrielle Grimard's expressive illustrations. Her use of watercolours gives the images an ethereal fluidity, though the intense gouache and definition with pencil help ground the story in bright reality.  The Fabulous World of Mr. Fred easily melds intensity and lightness of text and pictures to share a story of similar depth and tenderness.

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