Without You by G. Côté
Côté, Geneviève. Without You. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2011. Print.
Written and illustrated by Geneviève Côté, Without You revisits the friendship between the lop-eared Bunny and rosy Pig first encountered in Côté's Me and You (2009). As a counterpoint to the first book’s ode to friendship, Without You gently explores the point where the intensity of childhood bonhomie devolves into stubborn hostility.
Côté's watercolour illustrations and sense of aesthetic equilibrium are consistently lovely. Light, vivid, effortlessly bright, and expressive, the illustrations alone recommend the book. The text has a pleasing cadence and is appropriate for preschoolers and early readers.
If anything, Without You seems perhaps too effervescent given the subject matter. Côté had successfully captured very complex and nuanced perspectives on friendship in her other work—the excellent What Elephant? springs immediately to mind. Any intensity generated by Bunny and Pig’s antipathy seems undermined by the buoyancy of the illustrations and the protagonists’ unfailing adorableness. Even in the grip of irritation, Bunny and Pig are obviously sweeter than sweet, clearly made for each other, and even the youngest of readers would never doubt that they are destined to resolve their conflict. There is certainly an important place for this sort of reassuring, friendship narrative in children’s literature, but Without You fails to mirror back to children the heavy, cloudy, and confusing intensity of conflict between childhood friends.
This slight reservation aside, Without You is a very lovely, warm, and well-executed book by an exceedingly talented writer and illustrator; it makes a happy complement to the sunny Me and You. Better still, Côté writes all her books in both French and English, so French editions of her books are always readily available. (This review is based on the English edition.)
Recommended: 3 out of 4 starsReviewer: Matilda Roche
Matilda spends her days lavishing attention on the University of Alberta’s metadata but children’s illustrated books, literature for young adults and graphic novels also make her heart sing. Her reviews benefit from the critical influence of a four year old daughter and a one year old son – both geniuses. Matilda’s super power is the ability to read comic books aloud.