My Pal, Victor was written by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and illustrated by Robert L. Sweetland. Eida de la Vega translated to text. It was published in 2004 by Raven Tree Press.
My Pal, Victor, is a picture book about two friends, Victor and Dominic, who enjoy doing many different type of activities together. It is a Schneider Book Award winner. The Schneider award “honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” (http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/schneider-family-book-award) Knowing this, I was looking throughout the book, trying to determine what disability one of the children had. You see the two of them sitting on the ground eating lunch and swimming together. They are also at a baseball game together, where Victor cheers for Dominic while runs around the bases. They have sleepovers and tell ghost stories, and they ride roller coasters together. It isn’t until the very last page where the illustrator shows a full picture of Victor, and we realize that he is in a wheelchair. The author writes, “But, the most important thing about my pal, Victor, is that he likes me just the way I am.”
According to The Reading Tub website, My Pal, Victor is intended for kids between 4 – 8 years old. I agree, since this book introduces the idea of friendship beyond the norm. I think that it is important for kids to see that you can be friends with someone who is a little different. Whether that person has a physical disability, like Victor, or has some other type of disability, it is okay to get to know the person and see if you want to be friends based on what you have in common and how you are treated.
My Pal, Victor is a multicultural book. The English text is on top of each page, with a line and a star separating it from the Spanish text on the bottom of the page. It has very simple language and very little text on each page. “My pal, Victor throws a toy for his dog to catch. (Mi amigo Victor le lanza un juguete a su perro para que este lo atrape.) My pal, Victor, loves to ride the hightest rollercoasters and the dizziest, zoomiest, fastest rides he can find. (A mi amigo Victor le encanta subir a la montana rusa mas alta y a los apartos mas rapidos, mareantes y vertiginosos que pueda encontar.”)
I used Google Translator to determine whether the text was literally translated, and it is pretty close. One page has the English text, “Sometimes he puts us into his stories. It’s like a movie playing in our heads.” The translated version says, “Sometimes we are the protagonists of their stories. It's like a movie that was projected in our heads.”
The illustrations change throughout the book. Some of them are full bleed, showing the kids sitting or playing together, and some of them are a small framed circle, with the focus being on part of Victor. The framed illustrations never show Victor’s full body, as to keep the secret of his disability until the end of the book. The illustrations make it look as though this took place a long time ago, with soft, muted colors, so they didn’t pull me into the book like some illustrations can. There was some use of lines to create movement. When Dominic is playing baseball, he is hunched forward, ready to run, with his eyes looking at home, which makes the reader follow that diagonal. On another page, they are imagining they are cowboys, lassoing the clouds. The head of the dragon cloud is on the left hand page, looking down at them on the right hand page, which shows another example of movement within the illustrations.
Although it has a great message within it, I wasn’t overly impressed with My Pal, Victor. I felt as though it was very simple and didn’t have much depth to it. I think, what I have realized the most after reading so many picture books over the last several weeks, is I enjoy a book with a little more complexity. Those are the books that interest me. If this book sounds interesting to you, please go here to check it out. If this book interests you, you can find a list of good before, during and after reading questions, as well as a craft idea to go along with the book here.