Name of Book: Paul and Sebastian
Author: René Escudié
Illustrator: Ulises Wensell
Translator: Roderick Townley
Publisher: Kane/Miller Book Publishers
Audience: Although, I think the book is appropriate for children ages 4-8, one review I read said that her five-year-old son became afraid when the boys were lost.
Summary: Paul and Sebastian is a story from France about two obedient little boys who live next door, but their mothers’ do not wish them to play together because they live in different circumstances. Paul lives in a green trailer with blue curtains and Sebastian lives in a blue apartment with green curtains. However, one day the boys become lost during a school outing, and that night, in a red cabin with a yellow table they forget about their differences. In the midst of the cold and frightening situation, they become friends. They share their food and trade their jackets. When they are found at last, their mothers’ mistake the little boys for the other, bringing the wrong boy home. Each mother kisses the wrong boy good night and tucks him into bed. The next morning, upon realizing their mistake the two families become friends.
Literary elements at work in the story (Genre/setting/characterization/plot/theme/point of view/style): From France, this book is a pleasant, simplistic story about a friendship that arises in spite of differences in life-style. The attractive illustrations, like the text, use deftly echoed details to emphasize similarities between the two families: the senseless rift between them is born of style rather than of race or relative affluence. The illustrations become larger and brighter when the boys get lost on the school outing. The bright red cabin and yellow table contrast the subtle blues and greens in the earlier illustrations. Though the illustrations are stronger than the text here, it is interesting to have a European slant on a universal issue.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The main characters of this book are white boys from a very similar economic situation. Their differences come from subtle life-style choices. The pettiness of their differences is almost comical, alerting the reader to think about petty differences we see in others.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
Theological conversation partners (scripture, confessions, doctrines, theologians, etc): This book is a great book dealing with love for one another in the midst of our differences. It is also an empowering book for children, as it is the children who teach the adults about acceptance.
Faith Talk Questions
- Was it fair for the mothers to forbid their sons from playing with each other? Have your parents ever asked you not to be friends with someone? Why? Did you obey them?
- The differences that divided the families in this story was based on where they lived. What differences divide the families in our community? What do you think of these differences? Are they something that we can overcome, like the boys in the story, or are they too divisive? If we can overcome them, how can we do it?
- Think of someone from your school or community who is different. What can you do to become their friend? What obstacles will you have to overcome to be their friend?
This review was prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Mandy North.
Paul and Sebastian by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.