Observed by village children, an elderly man prepares for death in this misty allegory.
Mr. Rodriguez appears outdoors at 4 p.m. daily, communing with a different animal each day: a dove on Monday, a pet fish on Tuesday, an old sheepdog on Wednesday, a lame cat on Thursday. On Friday, a piano appears on the street, and Mr. Rodriguez sits atop it as “a fine melody flowed out to sea.” Mr. Rodriguez levitates slightly above the cobbled streets along with the animals (and piano) he shepherds. On Saturday, Mr. Rodriguez fails to appear. The children rise early on Sunday to discover whether he’s changed his routine. Their curiosity is rewarded: The elder appears on his piano, floating in the air, the animals arrayed around him. “He winked and pointed to the clouds in the distance.” Duchesne adopts a first-person-plural narrative voice in which matter-of-fact declaratives bob against mild speculation and culminate in an unflappable conclusion: “He had gone away, probably forever. But we know he was happy.” Thisdale’s paintings depict a white-presenting Mr. Rodriguez and the coastal village’s mutable sky, cerulean sea, whitewashed buildings, and omnipresent lighthouse. He sometimes duplicates and flips his images of the village’s diverse children. With their precisely lit, unchanging or mirrored facial expressions, these recurring images convey, perhaps unintentionally, a robotic eeriness.
This surreal allegory of death’s release will intrigue some readers while puzzling others. (Picture book. 4-7)