CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 2 . . . . September 22, 2000
Once upon a timeOriginally published in France as Le Papa Qui Avait 10 Enfants, the book is a very powerful tale of a father's love for his huge family of children who all appear to be toddlers of the same age. Why father is a single parent remains unknown for the text only speaks to his taking care of his children, cooking them breakfast, dressing them, driving them to school, picking them up after school, bathing them, then feeding them supper before finally putting them to bed with a story and a kiss apiece. While the children are at school, father is at work. The narrative is rendered in a very matter-of-fact, straightforward manner, but the simple illustrations, principally double page spreads executed in flat colours with the figures and objects outlined in black, tell another story. For example, any parent who has tried to dress a child that does not want to be dressed can identify with the illustration of the chaos surrounding the exasperated father as he "helped his 10 children put on 10 little pairs of underpants, 10 little t-shirts, 10 little pairs of jeans, 20 little socks and 20 little shoes."
With the children finally tucked in bed, needless to say "...the father was very tired..." but his day was not yet over because "he stayed up late every night, working all by himself on a secret project," a boat on which he was going to sail around the world "all by himself." Leaving the children with their grandmother, "the father" sails off, resting and fishing, but the next morning, by habit, he begins to prepare 10 breakfasts, an action which causes him to realize "something was missing." Home he sails to pick up his children, "and TOGETHER they set off to sail around the world."
Perhaps parents reading the book to their children will identify with the father's dedication to his children and the effort required to raise even one child, let alone 10. Children, on the other hand, will sense the father's enormous love for his offspring.
Dave Jenkinson, who was father to only three, teaches children's and adolescent literature in the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba.
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