At the Same Moment Around the World
Illustrator & Author Clotilde Perrin
Chronicle Books, Hbk, AUD $26.95, ISBN: 9781452122083
Translator: Chronicle Books
Details of French Edition: Au meme instant, published by Rue du monde, 2011
At the Same Moment Around the World takes young readers on an imaginative journey and rounds it off with two wonderful ‘extras’, creating an intriguing blend of fact and story.
We begin in Dakar, Senegal, (a former French colony) at six o’clock in the morning. Keita wakes up early to help his father count the fish caught during the night, while a ship edges towards the shore. Turn the page: it’s six o’clock we are in Paris as Benedict drinks hot chocolate before school. In the street the day is already underway: a street sweepers get to work as a man puffs on his cigarette, perhaps on his way to the metro.
We then travel across eastern Europe, the middle east, Asia, Australia, north and south America…indeed around the world. The book’s simple, beguiling subject is portrayed in playful, imaginative, information-rich and distinctly child-friendly images. Clotilde Perrin creates her images in pencil and then with digital colour. The text functions largely as a caption.
As an Australian reader of course I was curious to see how we would be represented. Of course any creator is going to use broad cultural gestures, but I must confess to being a little disappointed that Uluru is still being called Ayres Rock, the site has had a dual name since 1993. Anyway, it seems like a missed opportunity to more appropriately acknowledge the rock’s Indigenous heritage. Also, the text informs us that it is four o’clock in the afternoon, and Kate drives toward the beach…so it’s going to be a long afternoon for Kate. That said, the book isn’t striving for strict accuracy and still succeeds in conveying the idea of one world marked by time zones.
As well as exploring the idea of a continuous now, At the Same Moment Around the World introduces the reader to details of daily lives: climates and weather, a range of homes, architecture, animals and activities. There is another technical challenge for the illustrator to overcome. Since each page is a different place there is no double page spread and so Perrin has needed create images that blend places that are otherwise isolated and distinct. Yet she stitches it together as a suitably seamless whole.
The large number of scenes taking place at night also presents a challenge for the illustrator. On the whole Perrin resolves this with scenes of quiet nighttime activities (getting ready for bed, kissing goodnight, a baby being born). And when we turn the final page we see a ship sailing into shore at five o’clock in the morning ‘when Chloe finds herself tired from dancing all night’. It is of course also the first image in the book.
Which brings me to the two bonus elements of the book. Did you know that time zones have been in practice for less than 150 years? A brief history of timezones and time keeping explains that it was the coming of the telegraph, where great distances were joined at a keystroke demanded a more cohesive sense of time, sharpened the need to more accurately measure time. (In that sense, the illustrations for each page might cause us to reflect on the idea of ‘local time’ and the urgency, or otherwise, with which tasks are done or events unfold.) This part is a little more technical than the heart of the book.
And then the showstopper: a handsome fold out map that unites the whole adventure and reintroduces the children we have met on our journey around the world. What are you waiting for?
About Clotilde Perrin
Clotilde Perrin studied illustration at l'École des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg. As well illustrations for numerous magazines and newspapers including Astrapi, J’aime Lire, Les belles Histoires and magasine XXI, she has illustrated more than 30 books for a variety of publishers. Clotilde has also written and illustrated seven more personal books. Her work is celebrated for its poetic, imaginative force. Beneath an apparently simple surface her works are fine and detailed, with sparing and sensitive metaphorical elements in atmospheric settings. Her many and inventive compositions and landscapes are populated with endearing characters and her stories shaped with a touch of surrealism.
A great example of Clotilde Perrin's imaginative world can be seen in the film clip from her 2009 exhibition.