Delessert’s loving portrait of Eglantine Besson, the woman who was, as he puts it, “my real mom.”
His sparely told reminiscence begins with a first meeting at 2 1/2, when she was hired to be a caregiver in the wake of his birth mother’s death. Along with imparting her love of stories and books, he recalls a lifetime of laughter and hugs (“All my friends wanted a mom just like mine”). There were also occasional arguments, during one of which she threw a drinking glass that, unbroken, still sits on his drawing table filled with brushes and memories. Both that glass and his mother are drawn with softened edges and surfaces but a formidable, monumental solidity in the illustrations. The relationship as depicted seems to have been a loving but not intimate one; narrative claim notwithstanding, there is no hugging or laughter to be seen in the art. Aside from one craggy, introspective final portrait (“Eglantine lived to be 92. Until the end, she relished smoking little cigars”), the later pictures are all of objects or of figures significantly posed facing in different directions. Still, the author’s warm feelings come across as deep and genuine.
An unusual valentine, depicting with seeming simplicity a profound but not demonstrative attachment. (Picture book. 7-10, adult)