Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Reptile Rollicking And Romping

If we could bottle up laughter allowing a little bit out on those days when we need it the most, I would have saved my dad's laughter.  Once he got started he could not stop.  Tears would run down his face and he would be gasping for breath.

That man had a huge sense of humor.  With two daughters and a wife who got herself into Lucille Ball type situations, he needed it. With him everything was an adventure and an opportunity for us to learn something new.  His favorite saying was actions speak louder than words.  Gator Dad (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 3, 2016) written and illustrated by Brian Lies is a fun-filled look at a day with a dad; a tribute to a dad like my dad and many, many others.

Come on---
let's go!
Let's squeeze the day.

Two dozing gators and little gator number three are about to begin their day.   A tasty breakfast and a refrigerator fright get them going.  The happy foursome rush through their necessary tasks so they can enjoy play time in the park.

They teeter and totter, race and run and swoop toward the sky.  With energy to spare, this papa becomes what his hatchlings imagine him to be.  He will go where others might not go and giggles full of glee will fill the air.  A trail of footprints will tell the tale.

Home once more, cozy in a comfy chair they travel to places, wild and wonderful, that soar and surround them from the pages of a book.  Inspired by those stories, they create a furniture and blanket fort of enormous dimensions.  Impersonations and noise sensations fill the minutes and hours.

Scrub-a-dub dubbing in the tub and snuggling with Dad during a storm end with the youngsters back in their own bed.  Shadows on the wall, a soft glowing light and all is right with these gators listening to a final story for the night.  Their day ends as it began with a phrase and a promise.

How can you not get a big grin on your face after reading the first two lines of this tale?  The second sentence written by Brian Lies is sheer genius.  The play on those words comes full circle at the close of the book in an action and a statement.

Having the dad narrate their day's activities and events offers closeness between these gators and readers.  Before we are aware, we feel as though we are joining them in all their merry making.  Lies supplies a rhythm with his words using some alliteration and rhyming.  Here is his phrase for bath time.  Lies certainly has a marvelous way of depicting moments in words.

After dinner, we'll rinse away the day.

Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case, readers are greeted with a panoramic scene of dad and his gang of little gators galloping on a grassy hill enjoying the day.  To the left, on the back, a fully dressed zebra is sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper with the ISBN nestled on the back of the seat.  To the left on the lid of a garbage can, a mouse is reading a tiny newspaper.  In the distance on the far left is a city skyline.  It's befitting the opening and closing endpapers are a "gator" green.

Rendered in acrylic paint on Strathmore paper the illustrations are bursting with cheer and charm.  (Yes, these alligators have an undeniable charisma.) Lies varies his visual sizes from full page, edge to edge, double-page pictures and loosely framed ovals set among white space.  Extra entertainment comes when elements in these smaller images leave the frame.

Readers will enjoy noticing all the details in the images, names on the grocery (mice cream and goat meal) and household items, the swampish metalwork on the hatchlings headboard, the decorative posts on the park entrance gate, and backpack and attire patterns. The text becomes part of the overall design.  And the alligator grins and eyes convey the joy in every moment.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is when they are in the park.  Gator Dad is standing on a hill legs apart and arms stretched out and up and face lifted skyward.  The little gators are climbing on him as if he is a tall tree.  Clouds are forming in the background, a prelude to the incoming storm.  (Careful readers will notice how the sky changes during the day.)

Gator Dad written and illustrated by Brian Lies is one of my absolute best book choices about a dad and his children.  We all need to see how dads can seize and squeeze the day.  Read this any time of the day with those you love.  Make sure to have a copy on your personal and professional shelves.

To learn more about Brian Lies and his other work please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  For an activity kit created for this title follow this link.  John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries, featured the book trailer premiere and sentence starters and answers at Watch. Connect. Read.  Brian Lies was interviewed at Mile High Reading by educator, Dylan Teut.


  1. I love Brian's bats, and this looks like a great book!!

  2. It is a wonderful book Maria! It is a very personal book too.