When Dad Showed Me the Universe – Ulf Stark
(Published by Gecko Press – April 2015)
My boys have been slow to warm to this beautifully-illustrated (Eva Eriksson) picture book about a father who decides to take his son out one clear, dark night to show him the universe.
I think Pickle is simply too young (he isn’t yet three; the book is aimed at children five years plus), but I’m surprised that Tiny didn’t love it straight away, especially with its hilarious surprise ending. I suspect it’s due largely to not fully understanding the whole idea of the big, wide universe.
Personally, I like it. I like how Stark takes a fairly complicated idea and breaks it down into a lovely children’s story. I like that the journey that father and son go on is a journey that could easily be replicated (perhaps minus the stepping-in-dog-poo ending!), and I like that it sows the seed of doing just that.
I also really like that Stark has been able to capture the idea that even if things don’t go to plan, that doesn’t mean an endeavour fails. After the stepping-in-dog-poo misstep (ha!), Dad looks dejected (Eriksson’s illustrations are clever; she captures emotion beautifully);
“You’re probably too little anyway,” he says. “All I wanted was to show you something beautiful that you’d remember forever.”
but his son has had a wonderful evening and will remember their adventure – just not for the reasons his father had hoped.
Tiny does love the ending; last night he giggled, “I think it’s really funny that the dad steps in dog poo!” The more we read the story, the more he is taking in, and the longer our discussions become. We’ve been talking about stars and constellations, breaking down the concept of the universe into small, palatable chunks, and he is starting to appreciate When Dad Showed Me the Universe a whole lot more.
(Review copy kindly provided by the team at Gecko Press)