Thursday, June 11, 2009

When Papa Comes Home Tonight

Spinelli, Eileen. 2009. When Papa Comes Home Tonight. Simon & Schuster. Illustrated by David McPhail.

Oh what fun is to be had for one little boy when his dad comes home from work. That's the premise for Eileen Spinelli's When Papa Comes Home Tonight. The text is simple enough and sweet enough.

When Papa comes home tonight, dear child,
(I promise--not too late)
you'll hear me whistling up the road.
You'll meet me at the gate.

I'll lift you up. I'll swing you round.
And then we'll go inside.
You'll hand me fuzzy Teddy Bear.
You'll say: "Give him a ride!"

When Papa comes home tonight, dear child,
I'll let you help me cook.
We'll try that recipe for rice.
It's in the yellow book.
It's a sweet little book about a father and son spending time together at the end of a long day. They play. They laugh. They love. They're together. And that's the message of this one. Valuing their time together. Taking joy in the little things, the small things, that make up life.

I think I'm just being hyper-sensitive when I say that there was something about the text that didn't quite work for me. It's a blend of third person ("when Papa...") and first person (I, we) together which isn't quite natural, in my opinion. [If the father is the one talking, if he's the narrator, why does he sometimes speak in the first person, and other times speak in the third? Wouldn't it be more natural to use one or the other...'When I come home tonight, dear child, I'll let you help me cook.' Or 'When Papa comes home tonight, dear child, he'll let you help him cook.'] The whole book is also in future tense. The action is all set in the future sense. We'll do this, we'll do that. Yet because of the illustrations, the reader sees it all happening then and there, in the now, in the present.

Chances are these things won't bother you. At all. My mom read it and didn't see why the narration didn't quite work for me. While I didn't find this one perfect (for me), I do think it's a good book.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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