First off, this French import is a downright handsome picture book. Tall, thick, heavy pages like the stuff cereal boxes are made of, and eclectic mixed media illustrations - sepia photographs, chalky whites, cardboard browns, and graphite blacks. It also presents a refreshing spin on the all too familiar bedtime book. Every night it's the same old story. Dad, a man who permanently sports an outfit of slacks, dress shirt, tie and fedora (even to bed), does cartwheels, swings from the chandelier, and holds his son aloft pleading for "one more story pleeease, just one more!" Meanwhile the more levelheaded son tries to talk sense into him, reads him books, and worries Dad might come down the hall and ask to sleep with him in his pint-sized bed.
Coffee cups and teapots suggest Dad may be drinking too much caffeine, and an indoor clothesline hung with men's underpants makes one curious about what other responsibilities the son has taken on.
On the surface, My Dad is Big and Strong appears to be simply a sweet, silly tale of bedtime role reversal. And my four year old did find it pretty funny, maybe even eye opening in terms of empathizing with the nightly burden faced by the son.
But for me, I saw a goofy, sensitive, single, working dad who, after a long day at the office, genuinely loves spending time with his son.
(Image: Ben Partridge)