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Review of Mr. Hulot at the Beach

merveille_mr hulot at the beachMr. Hulot at the Beach
by David Merveille; 
illus. by the author
Primary    NorthSouth    56 pp.
5/16    978-0-7358-4254-0    $18.95

At the end of Hello, Mr. Hulot (rev. 1/14), the hero is seen planning a holiday. In this sequel we discover what particular challenges a seaside vacation offers the lanky, well-meaning, and diffident Frenchman. Having borrowed the character from the iconic films of Jacques Tati, Merveille now borrows a setting. The backdrop of a beachfront hotel, a cast of cameo characters including a pair of waiters, a naughty boy, and a young woman with complicated coronet hair — even the props of tennis racket, shrimp net, and busted kayak — all echo the 1953 movie Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. What is original to this wordless picture book in tones of black, white, gray, and newsprint are the scrapes that Mr. Hulot gets into. Their very predictability is their pleasure. Of course a folding beach chair will fight back. Of course Mr. Hulot’s desire to sit quietly and read his paper will be foiled by dogs, passing kites, and the tides. Of course a seagull will lay eggs in his shoe. There are a couple of contemporary touches — a cell phone, Charlie Hebdo on the newsstand — but mostly this is a timeless world of summer, punctuated with slapstick minus the cruelty, a world of benign disaster, sweetly funny.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Sarah Ellis

Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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