Hello, Mr. Hulot
by David Merveille; illus. by the author
Primary NorthSouth 56 pp.
9/13 978-0-7358-4135-2 $17.95
Monsieur Hulot, a character invented and played by French filmmaker Jacques Tati in such movies as Les Vacances de M. Hulot (Mr. Hulot’s Holiday), is one part schlemiel, one part everyman, one part existentialist, and all parts kindness. He seems an odd choice for a picture book, given that his most recognizable characteristic is the way he moves — a slopey, optimistic half-run — and that much of the humor in the films is physical. But Merveille cleverly captures the essential Hulot in every episode of this collection of short, largely wordless, comic-strip vignettes, with small visual puns that make us smile, sometimes one beat after we’ve turned the page, and sometimes sadly. Merveille pays homage to the films (Hulot ends the book by going on vacation), but these are newly minted mini-dramas, similar to those in Philippe Coudray’s Benjamin Bear books. Hulot longs to be a hero — an astronaut, a dashing lover, a gun-toting outlaw — but somehow his feats of derring-do end up being more mundane actions, such as successfully crossing the street or sheltering a flock of birds from the rain. Merveille even gets around the sticky issue of Hulot’s essential pipe. In this incarnation of our gentle and bumbling friend, he “smokes” bubbles.