For kids of a certain age, nothing is funnier than calling something by an incorrect name. Tell a 3-year-old that your knee hurts while pointing to your elbow and you're guaranteed giggles. Announce that worms are for dinner while presenting a pile of spaghetti to your kindergartener and he’ll squeal with delight.
Paul Meets Bernadette
, a picture book that recently landed on our bedtime reading pile, capitalizes on this concept with delightful results.
In this debut from Paris-based painter and sculptor Rosy Lamb, goldfish Paul swims around in circles until Bernadette drops into his bowl and shakes things up.
“Haven’t you ever noticed that there’s a whole world out there?” Bernadette implores.
She proceeds to show Paul the commonplace domestic items on the other side of the glass, making them seem exciting by calling them something other than what they really are. In Bernadette’s mind, a banana is a boat, a clock is a cactus and two fried eggs are the sun and moon.
“And do you see the tall buildings over there?” Bernadette says, swimming over to get a closer look at a carton of milk, a bottle of juice and two glasses lined up like an urban skyline. “That is a city.”
When Paul asks her what the city is named, she tells him matter-of-factly, "Milwaukee."
The humor in the book is subtler than in your average preschool fare, but it wasn’t lost on my 4-year-old son, Theo.
And there’s nothing goofy about Lamb’s illustrations. Her oil paintings, with gorgeous hues of sea-glass green and powder blue, infuse everyday life with an understated glamour. No wonder Bernadette is so excited.
By the end of the book, Paul has fully bought into Bernadette’s vision. Instead of circling the tank, he now circles Bernadette. He’s clearly enamored by her.
Which is pretty much how I feel about this book.