Written and Illustrated by David Ezra Stein
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015
My dad has big buggy eyes, strong legs, and a huge mouth.
The plot in a nutshell: A tadpole looks up to his father.
Tad is a tadpole who loves his dad and wants to be with him all the time. When Dad tucks him in, Tad follows him back to his own bed and he dreams that he can swim, jump and sing as well as his dad. One night, Dad points out that he can’t sleep when Tad shares his bed because Tad wiggles and kicks all night. Irritated, Dad asks if Tad is trying to drive him bananas. Tad angrily responds that he doesn’t enjoy sleeping with Dad anyway because Dad snores and for the first time, he chooses to swim away from his dad, who is happy to have some peace. Tad settles down to sleep but then hears someone splashing in the water and finds his Dad fidgeting around, unable to sleep without him. Tad offers to keep him company and Dad falls asleep with Tad back at his side.
Author/illustrator David Ezra Stein tells a parent and child story that is likely to ring a few familiar chords with lots of readers. You really feel Tad’s adoration of his father and his desire to do everything as well as his dad. As a parent, you can also see how this isn’t always an easy thing for Dad to bear, especially as Tad grows up. As an empty nester, my heart ached when they fought, because those little kid cuddling days end all too fast and even when you stay close to your children when they’re grown, those little kid moments are gone. Although this story conveys that message, the overall feeling of it is light and comical.
Mr. Stein details his process for the book’s artwork on the acknowledgements page and I’m glad he did, because it gave me an even greater appreciation for it. He copied Crayola marker line drawings onto watercolor paper, then added watercolor paint with a large round brush to build up layers of color and finished with crayon accents. He states (and this is my favorite part) that ‘care was taken to encourage and preserve happy accidents.’ The end result is colorful artwork with minor imperfections that echo the imperfections in the relationship between the father and son in the story. It’s a warm and delightful story for both parents and children.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that you should value the ones you love, including the good and the bad about them, because time together doesn’t last forever.