Wednesday 18 April 2012

Slog’s Dad

Slog’s Dad by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean (Walker Books)
PB RRP $27.95
ISBN 978-1-4063-3139-4
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Slog’s dad was a binman. He loved his family and his life, sang hymns as he walked and worked, and believed in Heaven and life after death.

When the first black mark appeared on his toe, he lost his leg in parts. It was replaced by a tin leg. When the black mark appeared on the toe of his other foot, and after that leg was gone, he sat in a wheelchair in the garden, still singing hymns. His wife nurtured and cared for him as she would a child.

When he got seriously ill, he promised Slog that he’d be back one more time, in the Spring, to see him.

In the Spring, after his father’s death, Slog sees a scruffy man resembling his father sitting on a park bench. He believes it’s his dad keeping his promise. Although his friend Davie doesn’t share Slog’s beliefs, he keeps his thoughts to himself. He believes it’s a conman trying to get a free meal. Davie tries to expose who he sees as an imposter.

But this man has legs; he knows things about Slog including his mother’s name. This knowledge confirms to Slog that it is his father. His appearance brings comfort and hope to the heartbroken boy, before he disappears forever from his life.

This is a story of loss, grief and the joyous comfort of hope and faith. It reflects on how humans, especially children, frequently create their own reality as a way to cope with grief and loss.

It is not just the text in Almond’s unique style that involves the reader’s mind and heart. It’s all the corresponding wordless, meaningful artworks that create a sub-story of their own in this part story, part graphic novel.

This book is the second collaboration between the winner of the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen Award, Irish children’s writer, and multi-talented artist Dave Mc Kean. The previous was The Savage, another powerful book about grief.

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