Johnny’s daddy has smooth cheeks, an apple in his throat and sounds like a mom when he sings in the bath. At other times a cactus grows out of his chin and his breath smells like cauliflower. At times he has warm hands and his fingers taste like applesauce. Other times his hands are cold and flash like lightning, and he becomes a thunder-daddy. When this happens Johnny wants to find a new daddy, but he eventually realizes that thunder-daddies don’t last forever. And that there’s nothing like the comfort that comes from those we love.Klaas Verplancke’s story, with its humorous, energetic and imaginative illustrations, will strike a chord with many young children and parents as they discover that love sometimes means setting limits, and that people do get angry, but that where there is love, it doesn’t last.

Featured in WOW Review Volume IX, Issue 4.

One thought on “Applesauce

  1. Crawford & Smiles says:

    Kathleen: This story was originally published in Belgium and translated into English, about a father and son. It is definitely not a “Disney daddy” story. I love the language and illustrations. They tell the story so well. At the beginning the daddy and son seem to have a wonderful loving relationship.

    Tracy: But in the first read through of this picture book, I was almost disturbed because when the phrase, “Daddy’s hands are cold. They flash like Lightning,” coupled with the illustrations showing the child so small and hunched over, and the father very tall and towering over his child, I worried the child was going to be struck.

    The story portrays conflict between father and child. In U.S. adolescent literature conflict between parents and children are more graphic and realistic. But typically in a picture book we don’t often see conflicts portrayed that are not humorous. At the beginning we see the love between the two, but as we move forward in the story, the illustrations and text take the reader to a dark place, but only for a moment…..

    Tracy: I wonder if it is our American enculturation that leads to that conclusion. I wonder if in international settings, they are not as cautious as in American culture. It made me pause and ask myself, is this reaction me, or what the author intended?

    Kathleen: The illustrator uses perspective and color to demonstrate the mood of the particular page. When he is “Applesauce Daddy” he is pink clean cut. The perspective is eye level. But when he becomes “Thunder Daddy,” the illustrations are dark and the perspective is looming. The boy becomes so small and diminished in the setting and the father becomes so large. Even in the “forest of other and better” he is so tiny and vulnerable

    Tracy: It captures the complexity of a parent-child relationship in that sometimes parents get angry with their children and children get angry with parents but the love endures.

    Kathleen: The illustrations are unique and striking, especially when the boy knocks on the door and there is an ape looking creature who is his daddy.

    Tracy: I appreciate when the boy is invited into the daddy’s “lair,” if you will, the boy doesn’t forgive his daddy right away. The father is still tall and looming over the boy, but his face is beginning to become soft.

    Kathleen: It isn’t until the boy smells the applesauce and the father feeds him the applesauce that he wants his daddy back and says “My daddy has warm hands. His fingers taste like applesauce. I wish he had a thousand hands.”

    Tracy: I’m eager to share this with children and see what kinds of stories they tell through the invitation that this book presents about their own families.

    I think the book is warm, sweet and provocative all at the same time.

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