Quote of the Month

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

Friday, June 12, 2015

Papa Problems

On Sunday June 21, 2015 across the United States people will be observing Father's Day, a day not officially declared a national holiday until 1972.  When I think of my Dad I remember his keen sense of humor, hearing him laugh at The Red Skeleton Show, his patience in showing me how to cast a fishing lure or throw a softball, "It's all in your wrist, Margie.", his knowledge on our walks in the woods and sitting for hours waiting for a deer to pass, one never did but he taught me the names of trees and plants, his persistence when we sat in a boat trolling for fish in near silence, his pleasure in working in the vegetable gardens, I have yet to grow tomato plants as tall as his were,  his cleverness in being able to fix everything and his love of reading.  I can still see him sitting in his favorite chair after a hard day of work, his undivided attention given to the plot or the provided information.

Most of us can learn much from our fathers, value their opinions, bask in their praise and feel secure in their nearby presence.  Tad and Dad (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) April 21, 2015) written and illustrated by Caldecott Honor award winner David Ezra Stein (Interrupting Chicken) is an oh-so-true representation of a "growing" relationship between a tadpole and his frog father.  Let's leap on over to the lily pad.

My dad has big, buggy eyes,
strong legs, and a huge mouth.

When Tad's dad sings, it booms out over the pond.  Tad most certainly admires his dad's eyes, legs, mouth and music but most of all, he loves him.  Having mastered wiggling, Tad swims near Dad asking him to look and happy with the answer.

At bedtime Dad tries his best to get Tad all cozy in his own little spot nearby but Tad wants to sleep right next to his dad.  Dad's not too sure about this arrangement.  He wants to know why Tad is there.  The child simply wants to keep his parent company.  Of course his dreams of swimming don't exactly make for a comfortable rest for Dad.

Before Tad or his Dad knows it, Tad has legs.  His hopping garners the best kind of compliment from his dad.  Although his insistence at sleeping with his dad makes for yet another restless night for the elder.  When Tad discovers his mouth has grown, his replicates his dad's singing.  Poor pop can't believe the night has turned to morning.

With each new development in his growth, Tad is thrilled to show his dad what he can do.  To his credit Dad is quick to admire Tad's accomplishments.  When it's time to sleep after enduring nights of dream swimming, hopping, and singing, Tad's final bedtime fiasco is the last cattail for Dad.

Both Tad and Dad have their say.  Both Tad and Dad are mad.  Sometimes you need to be apart to be together.

David Ezra Stein writes with the voice of experience.  His dedications read

This is for Sam.
for all our daytimes and nighttimes together.

And to all the dads who are sleeping on the couch tonight.

Having Tad narrate the story reaches out and embraces younger readers.  The conversations between Tad and Dad and his dad's commentary will have adult readers grinning knowingly.  With the skill of a consummate storyteller, Stein supplies a pattern with each growth spurt, a question, an answer, a bedtime ritual and a dream sequence.  Here is a sample passage.

And then,
I grew legs.

Surprise, Dad!

So that's
what was kicking me...

The look in Dad's eyes on the matching front dust jacket and book case tell a completely different story than the gleeful grin on Tad's face.  You realize even before you open the book, something funny is coming in the form of a contrast.  To the left, on the back, at the top is an interior illustration of Tad looking a little wild-eyed during the night.  A deep dark green supplies the canvas for the opening and closing endpapers.  Black marker drawings of pond flora cover both but there is a difference with a page turn between the front and the back.  In a loosely framed oval beneath the title we see Tad gazing into his dad's eyes, closely...very close.

The verso and first page are a double-page image of Tad swimming under water to greet his mostly-submerged dad.  Shades of green, yellow, blue, pink, purple and brown color the pictures; some double-page edge to edge, double-page framed in wavy brush strokes, single framed pages or smaller circular images.  When Tad splashes it simply stands alone in a watery splish, gradually getting larger as his size increases.

Rendered by copying

Crayola-marker line drawings onto watercolor paper, then watercolor was added using a single, large, round brush, building up many layers of transparent color, (please read entire message on verso)

these visuals heighten the humor, provide a proper pond atmosphere, and capture the many moods of Tad and Dad.  The expressions on Dad's face, sometimes we only see a single eye, convincingly depict his frustration at bedtime causing readers to chuckle more than once.  What endears us to this dad is the portrayal of his gusto during the daytime activities with his child.

One of my favorite illustrations is a two-page spread framed in black brush strokes.  The shores of the pond surround an area of water.  Tad and Dad are seated on a large lily pad with their mouths wide open singing; quality time cranked up full volume.

Tad and Dad written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein is a heartwarming look at the highs and lows of fatherhood.  Both children and parents will see themselves in this story triggering merriment.  This is absolutely perfect for a frog story time theme or to send your child off to dreamland.

To learn more about David Ezra Stein and his other titles please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David Ezra Stein is interviewed at Brightly, Meet the Illustrator:  David Ezra Stein.   

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