Bobo wakes up to find his father has gone away without saying goodbye. He finds it hard to deal with Papa’s absence and spends the whole day talking about him. And, he ensures he is the first to greet him on his return home.
Le voyage de papa is a simple picture book, told in the first person by Bobo, a very young boy. It starts with Bobo waking up; the first thing he notices is that his father is not there with the rest of the family. He looks for him everywhere and then discovers that his father has gone without waking him or saying goodbye.
“Je suis triste,” (I am sad) a little voice admits. And understandably so, as we go on to learn about Bobo and Papa’s close father-son relationship. The young boy refers to his father as “un grand jouet” (a big toy): he talks about climbing on his father’s back and jumping up and down on his legs. The accompanying illustration highlights the pair’s delight in each other’s company. Bobo sits on his father’s shoulders, grinning and holding a balloon, while his father lays steadying hands on his son and beams. As well as being great fun, Papa is also the one who listens to Bobo and takes his side when his siblings are goading him.
I particularly like Bobo’s admission that he sometimes goads his siblings too. And the moment when Awa, the sister, tells their mother that she should say Papa has gone away for one month, when we have all learnt that he is only absent overnight! Saliou Bah provides a wonderfully accurate portrayal of typical sibling behaviour, as well as showing a son’s love for his father and difficulty in dealing with his absence.
Bobo jumps for joy when Papa calls that evening, but hearing his voice is not enough, he needs to see him: “J’entends sa voix. Mais je veux le voir.” Touchingly, he later falls asleep in his father’s chair, and on waking, heads to the front door, so he is the first to greet him on his return.
Irina Condé’s illustrations are warm and engaging. Characters are lovingly portrayed and their emotions and actions – love, sadness, provocation – clearly conveyed in their stance and expressions. The focus of the artwork is very much on the human aspect, as in the text: there is very little in the way of scenery or accessory items. But I do love the soft colour wash in the background of each illustration.
Le voyage de papa is a simple, appealing story about young boy’s response to the absence of his much-loved father. It is ideal for sharing with young children, especially those with a father, or mother, who may spend time away from home.
Le voyage de papa (Daddy’s trip) by Saliou Bah, illustrated by Irina Condé (Editions Ganndal, 2013) – title not currently available in English
Saliou Bah was born and raised in Guinea and then spent a number of years working his way around West Africa. He is currently head of the Franco-Guinean Cultural Centre library in Conakry, Guinea. He is also president of the Association des auteurs et amis de la littérature de jeunesse (Society of authors and friends of children’s literature). He has published a number of children’s books with Editions Ganndal.
Irina Condé was born in Danilov (ex-USSR) and holds joint Guinean-Russian citizenship. She has lived and worked in Guinea since 1985 and currently teaches painting at the Guinean Institute of Arts in Dubreka. Her work has been widely exhibited in Africa and overseas; she has also written various works about contemporary Guinean art. She has illustrated a number of children’s books for Editions Ganndal.