Review: My Dad Is Big and Strong, But… by Coralie Saudo

my dad is big and strong but

My Dad Is Big and Strong, But… by Coralie Saudo, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Released May 8, 2012.

Translated from the French, this picture book takes the traditional bedtime story and turns it upside down.  Every night it’s the same thing, Dad does not want to go to bed.  The boy tries to get his father to bed nicely by using logic, but his dad just gets wilder and wilder.  The boy refuses to chase after him, instead offering a quiet story together.  That always works, and the two of them sit together in a chair: the father on the boy’s small lap.  Two stories later, and the boy finally has his father tucked into bed, but the process is not done yet.  The boy can’t head to his own bed yet or his father will ask to sleep with him.  And though his father may be big and strong, he’s also afraid of the dark.

This picture book has a wonderful charm about it that really works.  While there are other books that turn the parent/child relationship around, this one does it with a gentleness and honest joyfulness that is simply lovely.  A large part of this is the tone of the writing.  The sentence structure also works well, showing the skill of the translation.  The book plays with so many of the stereotypes of getting children to sleep that it is a delight to share with children.

Giacomo’s illustrations keep the size of the father and son as different as possible.  As you can see from the cover, the boy is quite small.  It is that size difference that adds so much humor to the illustrations, especially when the father is sitting on the boy’s lap for a story.  Another wonderful whimsical touch is the way the father heads to bed in hat and tie, rather than pajamas. 

Doing a pajama or bedtime story time?  This book would work very well there.  It is also a great pick for bedtime snuggles, though you might find yourself on your child’s lap just to try it out.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore


Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Released on May 1, 2012.

A sequel to Graceling, this book takes place 8 years later.  Bitterblue has been queen of Monsea for some time, struggling to undo the evil that her father wrought throughout the country.  Her duties seem to consist of mountains of paperwork, pardoning those influenced by Leck’s powers and the occasional appearance at court.  Spending days at work, indoors with only her aging advisors around her, who seem to go blank mentally when she mentions her father, wears upon her.  So she starts to sneak out and visit her city.  She visits the amazing bridges her father had created.  Underneath one, she finds a story room where there is warmth, drinks and stories are shared.  It is there that she meets Saf and his friend Teddy, two thieves who only steal what is already stolen.  As the queen learns about her city, she discovers strange things, puzzles that add to the questions she already has.  It is this that she has to solve, if she is to be the queen she needs to be.

Cashore brings back beloved characters in this book, including Po and Katsa who are continuing their love affair, their stormy fights, and their wrestling.  In Bitterblue, she has created yet another amazing female character.  Bitterblue has not only the future of her kingdom to decide, but also the terrors of her past to overcome.  She is a survivor rising from the wreckage of her childhood, the manipulation of her father, and the devastating loss of her mother.  Readers get the exquisite pleasure of watching her become a queen and a woman before their eyes.  The growth shown in this book is gradual and organic, beautifully told.

Cashore excels at writing readable books and elaborate worlds.  Her world building is done carefully and consistently, the reader secure in the knowledge that this is a vibrant, strange world, but one that they can count on.  Her characters all make sense, living their lives in the complexity of the political world that Cashore has built.  Even if their actions make no sense at first glance, be sure that Cashore knows more than she is showing at that moment and all will be revealed.  These books are layered, complex and riveting.

I fell hard for Bitterblue and her struggles.  She is the sort of heroine who speaks to me, one who is faced with overwhelming challenges but by staying true to herself and discovering who she is deep inside, manages to come through in the end.  She is immensely human, something that Cashore makes sure all of her amazing heroines are.

If you loved Graceling and Fire, you are sure to love Bitterblue as well.  This book took four years to write, and I’m happy to give Cashore all the time she needs to create her next book too.  Appropriate for ages 15-18. 

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.