Quote of the Month

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

Friday, June 14, 2019

Precious Papas

Even after a hard day of work, he had time for a make-believe adventure.  Lying on his back, knees bent and hands next to his head with the palms up, Dad became an automobile.  Seated on his knees, with hands grasping an imaginary steering wheel, I was the driver.  Our destination and the time to get there was controlled by my feet pushing on his hands, one for the brakes and one for the accelerator.  As the driver I would honk the horn with ease and as the automobile, he made appropriate engine, wheel and road sounds.  What grand trips we took!

Making these magical moments happen is a gift fathers give to their daughters and sons.  Side by Side: A Celebration Of Dads (Phaidon Press Limited, March 11, 2019) written and illustrated by Chris Raschka showcases fathers and their children living in treasured tandem.  These generous gestures, these shared minutes or hours, live on from generation to generation.

In this title six fathers and their daughters or sons enjoy three different activities sparingly named. In the first two the pair each play a part in an inseparable pastime or as opposites in a common theme.  In the third scene their pursuit is labeled

Side by side.

A crown-wearing daughter is royalty.  Her father is assigned to make her laugh as jester.  A boy is scooped into his father's lowered arms.  One is the crane and the other is the cargo.  When rain falls this father and his son stand together beneath an umbrella.

A dad sits reading in an outdoor chair.  His daughter, magnifying glass in hand is looking at something in the grass.  They are

Base and explorer.

There is a mountain to be climbed and a game of checkers to be played. The role of teacher and learner is switched before a twosome soars on swings.  Fathers offer the comfort of a cozy place to lay our heads.  Whatever the endeavor, they are here . . . always.

Using the principal of less is more, Chris Raschka elevates it to excellence in this book.  Three words describe each scene simply.  By having the title text conclude the third feature, it supplies a rhythm and a connection between all six fathers and their daughters and sons.  We are soothed and lulled by these words.

One of the first things readers will notice about this book is the trim size.  The width (6 1/2 ") is designed to be held easily by hands of all sizes.  The height (11") is reminiscent of The Tall Book series published in the 1950s.  When the dust jacket is opened the white canvas continues on the other side of the spine to the left, on the back.  The only items pictured are the shoes of the father and daughter shown on the front.  Although the illustrations are in full color, the use of primary colors grabs our attention.

On the book case in loose squares and rectangles, Chris Raschka has created a pattern of twenty-four different elements with a heavy emphasis on oranges and yellows in the designs.  The title text is placed in one of the shapes.  The lines, drops, flowers, dots, circles, crosses and curly leaves on stems exude joy.

On the opening and closing endpapers pairs of hats for fathers and daughters and sons and pairs of shoes for fathers and daughters and sons, are shown, respectively.  There are twelve sets each.  Readers will enjoy matching the hats and shoes to the characters inside the book.

Chris Raschka's signature artwork on heavier, matte-finished paper radiates from the double-page pictures with exuberance.  His flowing, loose lines and blend of soft and darker shades portrays with perfection the affection between the fathers and their children.  This not only envelopes readers but draws them into each scene.  After the first three fathers and their children but before the second set of three, a two-page image shows each parent and child enjoying ice cream or popsicles from a vendor.  It's as if they all arrived at the park at the same time.  Each duo is framed separately along with the seller.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for one of the

Side by side 

settings.  A father and his daughter are lying on beach towels in the sun.  They are lying on their backs with their bare feet extended toward the reader.  They are wearing shorts, tops and sunglasses.  He has a red towel and a red umbrella over him.  She has a purple towel and a green umbrella over her.

Surely every reader will find an occasion captured in this book, Side by Side: A Celebration Of Dads written and illustrated by Chris Raschka, which replicates one they've had or will trigger the memory of a similar experience.  You can hold the love expressed in these pages in your hands even after you've finished the book and set it aside.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Chris Raschka and his other work, you might want to look at an earlier post on a website linked to his name.  Chris Raschka has an account on Twitter.  He regularly posts his artwork.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Please enjoy this video from September 2018 where Chris Raschka shares his process.

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