There’s Only One Dad Like You

by Jess Racklyeft

Reviewed by Maria Parenti-Baldey

Author Illustrator Jess Racklyeft has created a picture story about family and relationships using joyously comical collage and watercolour images.  Each scene shows a Dad spending quality time with their children allowing a child to see him as their ‘hero, friend and guide.’ Whether father/son or father/daughter, Racklyeft has cleverly used young animal characters – leaving it to the young readers’ imagination to put themselves in the story.

The light-hearted and comical scenes are delightfully funny. They are alive with props, facial expressions and body language. In the Dad echidna and young echidna scene both are deep in discussion over a map, having returned from a wondrous adventure on their dual-seated bicycle. Big black hairy spider Dad shows young spider how tool-man Dad repairs the cut spider web with a screwdriver.

Racklyeft’s use of a strong watercolour palette and the scanning of the images into Photoshop allows her to piece and collage images, tweak, move and colour change to suit each scene. She uses proximity of colours to emphasise the closeness of a father child relationship.

The unusual two vertical double-page spreads tower over the reader. It’s many additional characters are dramatically effective providing so many things for young readers to spot. The tall-as-a-building boulders shows Dad billy goat standing on his tippy, hind legs with worried young billies craning their necks. A majestic autumn-hued tree trunk has two singing bluebirds atop, while each branch carries many more, including karaoke bird with bowler hat and microphone. All the while, cranky red rooster tries to crow over the din. At first, the two upright spreads felt out of place against the horizontal spreads, but a child will see their Dad towering high above them also. I enjoyed them so much, I would have liked a third vertical.

The two 12-hour endpapers span a 24-hour skyline. The day’s pink-hues turn to night’s rich-greens with pin-prick stars showing a persistent Dad firefly and young firefly, carrying a precious gift for that one special person at end of their long day. Can you guess who?

Affirm Press 2019 Picture Book Hardback $19.99 Age 3+ ISBN 9781925870534

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