This is a pretty special picture book that I’m sure will appeal to many dads, regardless of what their children think of them!
The narrator of the story is a young boy, observing that his dad had had an interesting youth, but now seems pretty “normal”. He wonders what has happened, and why his dad changed. While some parents manage to hang on to all their passions despite the pressures and realities of parenting, many parents will see something of themselves in this story.
As the story progresses, the boy acknowledges that his dad is still fun, if in a different way than he might have been in his pre-child life.
There’s a lot of truth in this story –children often see the adults in their lives one-dimensionally, and that dimension is solely within the child’s experience of their relationship. I was asked by a five-year-old yesterday if I slept in the office at school (they were surprised to learn that I lived in a house) – and I have had children freeze when they see me in the supermarket then run away, because they were so surprised to see me out of context. And there are many stories from life before being mum that my daughter has no idea of – and I’m sure the same is true for my own parents.
The illustrations use a bright colour palette, and are quite engaging. They work on a level for both children and adults, pairing well with the narrative, and the fold out surprise pages are a wee treat.
I read this to a class of 5-and-a-half year olds, wondering if the story was a little old for them. I needn’t have worried, as they were really engaged and told me lots of stories about their dads, particularly the tattoos their dads have!
I also sought the input of Rosa, an 8-year-old who I love sharing books with as she’s always got an interesting perspective. She enjoyed the book, and promptly told me a surprising fact about her dad that I hadn’t known. I’m firmly of the belief that any book that gets children engaged and talking is a good one – and I can promise all the dads whose secrets got revealed in the making of this review that they are safe with me!
With Father’s Day coming up, this would be a neat gift for the dad in your life, as well as for children aged 5-9. It’s a lovely book for sharing.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
My Dad Used to be So Cool
by Keith Negley
Reviewed by Flying Eye Books