cover image Dad & Me

Dad & Me

Peter Catalanotto, Philip Dowell, Adrian Bailey. DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley), $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7894-2584-3

""Today the first American is going to walk in space,"" begins this tale of a father and son's reconciliation. Tommy is looking forward to telling his father about the spaceship blastoff he's seen on TV at school, but his father pulls up to the driveway and ""growls, `Move your bike. Now!' "" Tommy is devastated, ""A million stars burst in my body. Hot and cold."" The language may be strong, but Tommy's feelings of rejection are believable, and when Dad finally understands Tommy's distress, he comes to the small astronaut's rescue. Catalanotto's (Mr. Mumble; The Painter) watercolors are breathtaking, but so abstruse that even adult readers may be confused. Each spread shimmers with light, brims with intriguing designs and details that reinforce the period setting, and the faces seem alive with energy and emotion. But the conceit of having the father and his car represent the father himself is cumbersome. For example, paired with the text ""Maybe Dad doesn't care about spacewalking"" is an illustration of Tommy watching his father drive the car through the living room, as if the man had just blown through the patio doors. When Dad orders Tommy to remove his colander/space helmet, ""Dad beeps, `No helmets at the table,' "" and the father and his car are pictured tableside. The book succeeds in representing a boy's imaginary play world as well as his changing moods, but the forced exposition at the beginning, the complexity of the visual images and the heavy-handed symbolism may make the book difficult for young readers to understand. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)