BRUNO, SOME OF THE MORE INTERESTING DAYS IN MY LIFE SO FAR
by Catharina Valckx, illustrated by Nicolas Hubesch – Gecko Press, 2017
ages 2 to 8 years / picture books + chapter books, funny, emotional resilience
Most everyone has had almost-perfect days, stupid days, rainy days, peculiar days and uninteresting days. It’s the mix that makes life interesting. Bruno is a cat who tells the story of six very different days in his life.
They’re the sort of days we’ve all had—with surprising, quirky twists. Among those days, there are totally relatable moments, like this one:
“That day, the power went out on my street, At night, so as not to be in the dark, I lit candles. It was very pretty. Since they don’t happen very often, I really like days when the power goes out.”
And totally fantastic days, like when Bruno and his friend Ringo, a horse, find that they can breathe underwater and end up in a backwards swimming race with their new friend Bup, a fish. Bruno muses:
“It’s a little peculiar that Bup won the race since she’d been feeling so unwell just a short while ago. But that’s okay. On peculiar days, nothing should come as a surprise.”
There's a lot of power in this book and it's great for building emotional resilience:
It's full of reasons for optimism and a sense of wonder as each new day unfolds. In mixing offbeat stories with familiar, everyday experiences, Bruno manages to make the everyday seem important and full of potential.
It does a wonderful job of modelling healthy friendships. It’s not all smooth sailing—Bruno gets frustrated sometimes—but he’s welcoming, forgiving, and appreciative of his friends and the diversity they bring to his life.
It's brilliant for times when the world seems to be out of kilter. There’s a wonderful instability to Bruno’s life. It’s chaotic and challenging, and yet, Bruno is able to navigate those vicissitudes with good humour and confidence.
And it's a great conversation-starter. In modern (first world) life, we’re certain to meet people of every stripe—political, religious, social, economic, gendered, racial and so on—but it’s a very human inclination to categorise. And it's tempting then to look for ways to make life, people and experiences fit neatly into whatever box we have constructed. Bruno is brilliant for talking about being outside that box. His life includes fish that swim through the air, a funny bird who blurts out completely disconnected words, a bossy, judgemental crow and more. It’s gloriously unstable and ideal for conversations about taking people and events as they come.
A small reading hint:
This is a chapter book, with one great twist—the chapters vary dramatically in length. The shortest is just one double page spread, the longest runs 22 pages! So if you have a new-ish reader you can read different chapters to each other. You'd take the long ones yourself, and your new reader can take the short ones.
Bruno is one of Jesse’s current favourites for reading with children who are old enough to want a slightly longer story. It’s full of life, fun to read, and challenging. My favourite chapter is the last—“An almost perfect day.” It’s about Bruno’s idea of a perfect day and how he almost managed to have one.
I especially love that he tries to feed the poor animals but fails—it all rings true to me!
Bruno is a cool cat with cool stories; kids love him, and so do adults.