If you are a dad, you know that, well, what is expected of you changes. Suddenly, you’re an adult. You know stuff. You need to be dependable. And on your list of what matters in life, your kids should be first.
But it’s not easy. The strongest men fail. You remember sleeping late, or suddenly realise being not that educational can be so much more fun. Rest assured though, you are not alone. French animator and cartoonist Guy Delisle, a firm favourite with the blog crew, has been publishing short snaps on his (quite endearing) failings as a parent on his blog, and they have now been collected in another book that’s screaming for a translation, because let’s face it, these parenting themes traverse all language and culture barriers and are pretty universal, as dads everywhere will know.
In his latest books, more particularly Chroniques Birmanes and Chroniques de Jérusalem, Delisle already told how he had set his own career aside to follow his wife when she she was stationed abroad, and generally take care of the kids. In those two books, the focus was more on his discoveries and experiences in cultures that are similar to his own in certain ways, but very different in others. Even though the books consist of short sketches and impressions, there is a general story arc that contributes to the book’s theme and message.
Delisle’s latest is a collection of equally short, but very stand-alone stories featuring himself (or a guy very similar to how he draws himself in his other books) and his two kids. The overall theme of the stories is clear : how his own egocentrism and laziness makes his life as a parent difficult, and leaves his kids with life lessons that they probably were not really looking for. For example, he forgets to put a coin under his son’s pillow when he loses a tooth, and then has to come up with incredibly intricate intrigues about why the tooth fairy waited two days to show up. In another scene, when he takes his daughter to her swimming lessons, he promises to watch her from the balcony, but ends up in a café. Luckily he makes it just in time for his daughter to see him cheering her on.
Other stories rather sound like fantastical elaborations on a real anecdote to me, such as the one in which he plays at sawing his own hand off with a chain saw, and makes it all the more real with the red-colored oil that’s dripping from the saw. “We’ll be laughing about this one for years to come”, he muses. I think not, to be honest.
Throughout his work, Delisle’s art does not spring to mind as an example of baroque decoration and detail. His professional background as an animator has him perfect his art to an almost minimalistic, schematic representation of people and scenery. For the Mauvais Père, he even takes it a step further – scenery’s at best suggested in these strips, and all the scenes are focused on the protagonists. Emotions and reactions are represented in an almost manga-like way, so as to drive home the message.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’d read some of the strips online before, but when you read them all in one setting, they’re even funnier. This is a book that all new (and older) dads should have, just to convince them : You are not alone! You make mistakes, and so does every other dad!
Guy Delisle, Le Guide Du Mauvais Père is published by Delcourt (ISBN 978-2-7560-3873-5)