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.
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”.
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: