CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 39. . . .June 16, 2017
In this bouncy, affectionate tale, a young child's anxiety at being left at kindergarten is assuaged as his father dreams up the many methods he will employ to come pick up his child, no matter what. When Daddy's old green car “sounds like it has the hiccups” in the morning, Matthew worries that it might not start in the afternoon. Daddy reassures Matthew that, if the car does not start, he will borrow the neighbor's big red tractor; but then Matthew wants to know what will happen if the tractor is already being used on the farm. Matthew's teddy bear, the neighbor's garden hose, the birds and rabbits living in the area, and a dragon are all brought to play before Daddy declares that, if all else fails, he will come running to Matthew on his own two long legs, thereby concluding the story. The final double spread shows Matthew and his father at their house, smiling as they open the door on a tea party prepared by all the previously mentioned characters. The repetitive question-and-answer format in which a child tests and is reassured of her/his parents’ love for her/him by way of several imagined sequences is strongly reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown's The Runaway Bunny, while also being a little more energetic and active in tone – The Runaway Bunny ends on a quiet nighttime scene, for example, while Daddy Long Legs ends with a cheerful party scene. The writing is clean, the translation from French done neatly (I assume) without being too simple or saccharine. The illustrations are beautiful, comprising large blocks of softened colors and no outlines to the shapes, with a flat but pleasing texture somewhat similar to prints, or to children's pictures done in oil crayons on thick paper; the main colors are muted reds (some faded to pink), greens, dark and light grays, and white, although the cover of the book is an eye-catching bright yellow (think Curious George yellow). The overall effect is, again, reminiscent of older picture books: The Runaway Bunny, but also Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline, in the use of color and also in the way the illustrations are static shots of the dynamic actions that are going on. The visuals are far from merely nostalgic, however. There is a more spacious feeling to Daddy Long Legs, with fewer and larger points of interest across each double spread instead of one or two detailed illustrations on each page; they might be stills from a children's animated film.
With its big iconic shapes, repetitive structure, bold actions, and use of familiar animals and objects to address a common childhood anxiety, Daddy Long Legs would be an excellent title both to read aloud during storytime and to share before bedtime. The opposite of glossy or trendy, but playful and friendly instead, I wouldn't be surprised if it became a classic.
Saeyong Kim has an MA in Children’s Literature and an MLIS; she lives in British Columbia where she works as an auxiliary librarian.
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