My family has a new favorite bedtime book; my three year old has fallen in love with Polo, a little doggy featured in a series of wordless picture books by French illustrator Régis Faller. Every night for a week, my three-year-old daughter has demanded The Adventures of Polo at bedtime. She's at the stage where she wants a "talking story" (a story I make up, with her adding in details as we go) and a book every night, and Polo combines the best of both worlds.
Told through simple comic panels, Adventures opens with Polo leaving his house (carved into a giant tree that sits on its own island) with his backpack and umbrella, balancing on a tightrope attached to a peg on the island's edge. He walks the tightrope until it turns into a set of stairs, and then a slide, which deposits him on a cloud, that flies to another cloud on which sits a bear with a fishing rod and line. They greet each other, and then Polo slides down the line and into a little boat, and then, as the moon rises, puts on a diving helmet and goes to the bottom of the sea where he finds a star in a treasure chest. The nearby fish gather round, and guide him to the fish-king, whose wand has lost its star. Polo fits the star on the king's wand, who conjures up a bubble that lofts Polo to the water's surface. Back in the boat, he sails into a fog bank and is beached on the back of an enormous whale. His momentary fright is settled by the whale's grin, and he fits wings to his boat, transforming it into a glider that the whale tosses forward with a flick of his tail, delivering Polo to a tropical island with its own volcano (Polo roasts some wieners on a string over the lava-flow). And then Polo is off again, on more adventures that include islands, musical monkeys, soaring balloons, mischievous mosquitoes, a diving bell, an igloo with an angry polar bear, an ice-boat, a friendly snowman, and then a trip back home to the island where it all started.
For us, Polo's magic is in the combination of the whimsy and charm of the illustration and the just-right degree of narrative coherence between the panels and pages, which are perfect for Poesy to follow along -- she delights in trading narrator duties with me, and the lack of words puts us on something like equal footing. Reading to my daughter is one of my greatest pleasures, and Adventures has taken our reading to a new level.