Applesauce by Klaas Verplancke

Most picture books for kids tend to give a rosy-lensed and idealised vision of parents. And while these are feel-good and sweet, and reassure the child of his/her parents’ love, we all know that as much as most parents strive to be ever chirpy, patient, encouraging, nurturing, loving, etc, there are just times when kids push all the wrong buttons and send us right over the edge, causing otherwise benevolent parents to do or say things that they don’t mean to and later regret.

Perfect parents and kids hardly ever exist in real life: there are good days and bad days. Thus it’s rare to find a book such as this that doesn’t try to patronise kids and their parents by whitewashing the reality that parents are only human — imperfect and flawed.

Applesauce is a heartwarming story about the relationship between a father and his son, as seen from the son Johnny’s perspective.

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While the story begins quite amusingly with Johnny’s quirky impressions of his dad and the typical good-dad things that he does, including making applesauce for him, it doesn’t shy away from the politically incorrect depiction of the angry “thunder daddy”, nor the ugly thoughts and words — yes “stupid” and “deaf” appear in the book — that unwittingly escape in our darkest moments. The story ends sweetly, with applesauce — a metaphor that needs no explanation — but it is earned, as opposed to a cliched “happy ending”.

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What makes the book truly outstanding, however, is the heart that went into writing it, and how honest and true it reads. Kids are often capable of understanding more than we give them credit for, and they need to know that even when “thunder daddy” (or mommy, for that matter) makes an occasional appearance, it doesn’t mean that “applesauce daddy” has gone for good — i.e, even when harsh words are used, their parents don’t ever stop loving them. Most importantly, the book reminds us that it is possible to forgive and heal when you remember that the love that underlies it all never goes away.

Its slightly controversial content means it’s not a book for everyone, probably, but we think it’s one of the best children’s books we’ve ever read.

Check out the book trailer:

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7 thoughts on “Applesauce by Klaas Verplancke

  1. From the trailer, I interpret the storyline as one of abuse. I realize that parents can get angry and upset and it’s not abusive, but for me, the portrayal of gorilla dad “making up” by making applesauce hits too close to home. Definitely not for everyone, and I’d really rather not see this in a classroom: to an abused kid, this can be interpreted to normalize and condone the abuse, not draw a line between “sometimes parents get angry and it’s ok” and “sometimes when parents get angry, it’s absolutely not okay and you don’t deserve it.”

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    • Hi there, perhaps you should check out the book itself since the trailer doesn’t show it in its entirety. I don’t think the author set out to portray an “abusive” parent although it could, I suppose, be interpreted that way if a child has that kind of family background — unfortunately. Then again, any book that portrays a parent as anything but loving and understanding 100% of the time stands a chance of being accused of encouraging abuse or poor parenting. But like I said, there are good and bad days of parenting, so it’s naive to be reading about how wonderful parents are all the time. To me, this is a book that needed to be written. As for whether to read it or not, that’s entirely up to parents to exercise their own judgment. Anyhow, thanks for leaving a comment!

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  2. hello, and thanks for featuring Klaas’s work! I got the chance to meet him at the USBBY conference in St. Louis in October. Such a lovely person, so I’m not surprised that he produced a lovely book that takes a complex look at parenting. The way he explained the motivation behind the book – it was clear that it sprung from love for his son.

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    • Hi there, we only feature books that we like, and we really enjoyed this one. It’s unfortunate that his work has been misinterpreted so I hope rational reviews like this will help — there’s nothing worse than good intentions being misunderstood!

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      • Yes, I had no idea until I read this post that there was any controversy surrounding “Applesauce.” It’s a shame when normal emotions like anger–which all of us experience at some time or another–get blown into hyperbolic proportions and equated to abuse. It is normal for parents to get angry or frustrated with their kids; what isn’t normal is pretending that it doesn’t happen, and claiming that any books that depict any emotions besides happiness are necessarily abusive.

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