At the start of My Bright Friend, readers are told that Ludo’s parents don’t love each other anymore. Refreshingly, there is no attempt to buffer readers from the reality of divorce, nor is the language patronizing. Rather, author Simon Boulerice’s honest opening moves the plot forward without need of further exposition. The divorce soon fades into the background, and Ludo’s own journey becomes the focal point.
Ludo heads off to spend the week with his dad in the city for the first time since his parents’ divorce. The cosmopolitan hubbub is captivating at first, especially compared to his mom’s quiet countryside home. But when Ludo’s fears of loneliness arise, his dad calms him with the story of the man who lives in the traffic-light pole, an elusive figure who’s responsible for flicking the lights from green to yellow to red.
After hearing his father’s story, Ludo’s imagination begins to wander: Could the traffic-light controller also be lonely? What if he’s hungry? In an attempt to connect with this potential friend, Ludo prepares a plate of toast – with toppings adhering to the red-yellow-green theme – and actually convinces the red-bearded man in the pole to open his creaky metal door and peek out. At a time of great change and uncertainty, Ludo finds reprieve in the friendship of a person only he can see.
Marilyn Faucher’s illustrations are lively and the colours fittingly bright and lush. The substantial text renders this a great picture book for older children, while still working as a read-aloud for younger kids. My Bright Friend quietly advances the notion that, more than overt lessons, kids need space to think, question, and imagine during sensitive times.