Book review, from Singapore to Tokyo – On a short trip to Singapore, I visited a familiar independent bookstore in Tiong Bahru, Woods in the Books. Every time I visit, I find something new. This time was no different.
My latest find was hidden between several other Epigram books. Something had spurred me to scour that selection, when a title caught my eye – “Don’t Be Sorry, Dad!”.
We clicked. I was sorry for leaving my kids and wife back home to venture out alone for purely selfish reasons. I wanted to do something worthwhile for them, bring them something that they would enjoy. A picture book was perfect. But what story did this one tell?
The cover shows a girl and her father seated on a bench in some park. Nothing extraordinary, or was it? Was it the title? I had to open the book to learn more.
When I did, I saw a young girl enjoying the company of her dad, who couldn’t walk but always gave her so many other things. Whether at the beach, the park, on a sunny day, or a rainy one, the father would always apologize for being poor company, but the little one kept repeating the title, or something similar, and showed him why it didn’t just not matter, but how she really liked spending their time together.
It was simple, inspiring, more like liberating. Often, I feel more than a few judgmental gazes around me when my kids start misbehaving on our many adventures beyond our front door. However, fathers are not usually represented with their children in Japanese media, but many can be seen playing, caring, watching over their children.
The stay-at-home housewife has an untouchable position in picture books. Today, we see some men do this job, but don’t get to read much about them. Even less so if it were about something so basic as a father-child relationship.
This book clicked. On several levels. The illustrations were soft and pencilled, not flashy. It told a simple story, with similarly simple, warm colours. The message seemed manifold. Acceptance, enjoying time together, appreciating another’s strengths and embracing their weaknesses. This, from the little girl’s perspective.
How can this not be a totally heartening book for all fathers? How often do fathers say sorry, with good reason? How we always hope to put a smile on our children’s faces? How, after reading, can we not think about our own fathers?
That would also be the best present I could ever receive from my children.
Title: “Don’t Be Sorry, Dad!” by Nari Hong based on her life
Published: Singapore, Epigram Books, 2016