Review: It’s Great Being A Dad by Dan Bar-el and Gina Perry

A gang of mythical creatures is roaming around a magical land having a great time, until Bigfoot gets his foot stuck in a tree trunk and Unicorn gets her horn impaled on a table and Robot’s saw-arm gets rusted into position. But have no fear! Dad is there to fix things–even when a Sneaky Flying Alligator Pirate steals the Fairy Queen Ballerina Doctor’s wand. — [X]

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this picture book from Tundra Books in exchange for a fair review.

NGL, this isn’t a book I would have picked up on my own–and yet, since it’s Dan Bar-el’s book, there’s a good chance I’m lying to myself and totally would have bought it! Basically, I’m glad I was asked to review this one because it ended up being a sweet, funny little book–just like the family within its pages.

The story is told from multiple POVs:

  • starting with a unicorn (whose horn may be adorable but makes it hard for her to graze)
  • then a Bigfoot (whose big foot gets stuck in a tree trunk as he’s trying to yank a table off of his unicorn buddy’s adorable horn)
  • a robot (whose saw-arm is rusted stuck as he’s trying to help Bigfoot and unicorn)
  • a Loch Ness Monster (who really doesn’t like being called a monster)
  • a fairy queen ballerina doctor (who gets her wand stolen by a flying alligator pirate just as she’s about to save the day)
  • and a mischievous alligator pirate (who was about to get away with it too if it wasn’t for those nosy kids Dad).

The final POV is from the Dad of these creatures *cough-kids-with-lovely-imaginations-cough* who gets to help out unicorn, Bigfoot, robot, Loch Ness Monster, and fairy queen ballerina doctor, and even convinces the alligator pirate to play nice. Like with the rest of the perspectives, Dad’s POV starts with “here’s what’s great about being a Dad” and ends with a “here’s what’s not great about being a Dad”–and yes, the answer to the latter may involve the glitter.

Like I said, sweet and funny. But! Also! Pretty memorable because of three reasons. One, because the text just flows so nicely. The language isn’t difficult, reading it aloud is fun, and it has a tight pattern that delivers a laugh at the end. This picturebook is a prime example of “you don’t have to get fancy with it, just be good at what you do”. The book doesn’t rhyme, or trick you, or hit you over the head with a lesson in morality–it doesn’t need to. All it needed was a good pattern–what’s great about being X and what’s not great about being X–and it ended up being compelling from page one. The simplicity is what makes it good.

Two, It’s Great Being a Dad plays with text and illustrations the way I like picturebooks to play with text and illustrations. The moment Dad is describing what’s great about being a father is the moment we finally see the kids in their costumes and not as the creatures they are pretending to be. Which brings me to the final reason why this picturebook is memorable: the family itself. It’s not what you expect and I’m not going to give it away, but it made my heart swell.

All in all, the words are funny, the illustrations are bright and attractive, and the story as a whole is incredibly sweet. Recommended.

*SIDENOTE: Of course, it isn’t surprising that the story is entertaining (this isn’t Dan Bar-el’s first picturebook rodeo), it’s just that I’m on my fourth week as intern and if I see one more picturebook manuscript from someone who think it’s easy to write one I may cry right at my desk. Kidding. No. Really.