Quote of the Month

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

To Fabulous Fathers

There is not a day that passes without me thinking of my dad.  Something will trigger a memory of something he said or something he did.  There was nothing that man could not mend.  More than twenty years have come and gone but the sound of his laughter rings inside my mind as if he's in the room with me.

I can still see him sitting after a hard day's work in "his" chair reading one of his beloved historical fiction titles.  After reading My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt And Company, May 16, 2017) poems and illustrations by Hope Anita Smith, my deepest desire is to be able to read these poems to him.  They speak of the love children hold in their hearts forever for their fathers.

My Daddy
My daddy is a porcupine
with whiskers that are prickly.
My daddy is an octopus
who finds where I am tickly.

Four more animals are likened to this child's daddy.  He lifts high, encourages flight, stays up late and hugs with a hug that says he will never let go. In the next reflection a child speaks about how he silently goes about the house because his daddy is sleeping.  To close the poem, the humor sneaks in as he describes the noise his father's snores make.

A father gets up early to make a special breakfast for his child.  There is something deeply spiritual in this kind of communion; a meal and a conversation shared only by two.  For those children whose dads are away, a letter and a prayer are sent.  Is there anything more fun or anxiety-causing than a haircut at home....by a dad?  Dancing on daddy's feet, lifted twirling in the air, and those wrestling matches when you win are moments firmly filed in the good times folder.

Those days into evenings when you wait patiently and then with sadness for dad are never easy but then the magic happens.  Perhaps the street is lined with trees or buildings or the road with rows of corn but it's all the same when you and your dad work together to make the first bike ride happen.  A dad's anger, his disappointment, is hard to hear but his love despite this is steadfast.

Different dads have different occupations but one job makes this child happiest.  Dads never stop doing what they believe is best.  Dads pass on beloved rituals from generation to generation.  Each dad looks at the world in a way that makes them a hero to their child.

No matter how many times I read and reread these fifteen poems written by Hope Anita Smith what remains unwavering is her knowing; knowing how each child, the child still in adults, feels about and remembers their dads.  She has placed universal truths on these pages conveying the essence of the relationship shared by fathers and their daughters and their sons.  The voice of the child narrator rings with clarity, conviction, confidence and most of all, love.  Her use of rhyme, free verse and questions and answers creates a heartwarming cadence and welcomes reader participation.  Here are the final four lines in the poem My First Book.

Dad and I are readers.
We are word men, through and through.
I hope you have a dad like mine
who loves to read to you.

Created with torn paper the illustrations, beginning with the matching dust jacket and book case, portray the same marvelous oneness as the text.  All readers can see themselves in these images; they connect us further to the poems.  This is a book for all of us.  Look at the dad's hand lifting up his son's chin.  That single act says look at me and know that what I say will stand the test of time.  I think the way the two figures frame the text is brilliant.

To the left, on the back, a father bends and grabs the seat of his daughter's bike as she rides a two-wheeler for the first time.  The pale blue background used on the jacket and case create a sense of calm.  It is a darker, richer, hue of blue on both the opening and closing endpapers.

Most of the pictures are on a pristine white background highlighting the varied, colorful papers used by Hope Anita Smith.  The sizes may span an entire single page, cross the gutter in varying degrees, or stretch across both pages.  To elevate the design Hope places additional pieces of paper above, below or along the sides of the text.  There is a fine line of white between each piece of paper.

I love that there are no features on the faces of the individual people.  This frees the reader to take the emotion from the poems and fashion the expressions themselves.  This is a gift from Hope Anita Smith to us.

One of my many favorite pictures is of the child watching his daddy sleeping.  The father is sprawled in a flowered, over-stuffed chair.  He is enjoying a weekend nap in my way of thinking.  His glasses are on top of his head.  The boy is leaning on the arm of the chair, quiet but also wondering how one human being can make so much noise.  The blend of paper patterns is wonderful.

This is one book I will keep close to me.  My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads poems and illustrations by Hope Anita Smith is also a title to gift whenever possible.  It will definitely be a choice during trick-or-treat at Halloween at my home.  As a read aloud it's a dream come true.  Make sure to have a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To discover more about Hope Anita Smith and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  To view interior images visit the publisher's website.  This title is featured by Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson showcases this title at Kirkus and on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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