Lost in translation. Keep reading…
My French is a bit rusty, so I looked for a translation for Pince-coeur (literally “pinch-heart”). According to the publisher Hong Fei, it is the tale of a white rabbit named Baitu, who lives with his mommy Tumama. One day while away picking carrots for his mom, a hungry wolf shows up at the house with plans to eat Tumama. Concerned for the safety of Baitu, she bites her fingers; through some sort of mother-son connection, Baitu feels his heart pinch and rushes home to save her.
The story sounds odd and leaves me with lots of questions. Perhaps something got lost in the translation from Chinese, to French, to English. Pince-coeur, written by Chun-Liang YEH and illustrated by Selma Mandine, is a tale derived from an ancient Chinese story written by GUO Ju-Jing during the Yuan Dynasty (A.D. 1271-1368).
For keen readers there is a glossary at the back, which will help you brush up on your French and Chinese. It provides you with the Chinese characters and the French definitions and pronunciations for the main vocabulary in the story.
The characters are as cute as buttons, drawn with heart-shaped noses. I think the soft edges and blending of the pastels makes everything look round and cuddly, so that even the big bad wolf looks huggable. With a warm colour palette of browns, oranges and yellows, each illustration looks like it is bathed in morning light. To add texture, Mandine stretches into the pastel, exposing the yellow paper underneath; this technique also creates finer lines and detail that can’t be created using pastel. There is very little detail in the scenery, Mandine uses plenty of yellow in her backgrounds with smudges of pastel to give you the impression of vast open fields. The yellow background reminds me of the wheat fields of the Canadian prairies: pure gold.
Pince-coeur, a children’s book review by Thao Lam
Chun-Liang is the founder of Hong Fei, a French publishing house which only publish seven books a year and every one of them is worth checking out (see their backlist on www.hongfei-cultures.com). Over the past year B is for Books has had the privilege to showcase a few of their books: Mures mures, Pi Po Pierrot and Yllavu. Getting a hold of one of their books requires calling in favors with lots of money changing hands because, sadly, Amazon doesn’t carry them.
Illustrator Salma Mandine
A self-taught illustrator, Salma Mandine was born in Hong Kong. While obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Photographic Design, she illustrated children’s books and for magazines on the side. Upon graduating she worked as a graphic designer for museums and children’s book publishers in Hong Kong, before moving to France to become a full time illustrator.
To find out more about Salma Mandine, please visit her website: www.petiteselma.free.fr
Publisher Hongfei Cultures (October 2008)