April 16, 2020

Weekend Dad

Written by Naseem Hrab
Illustrated by Frank Viva
Groundwood Books
36 pp.
Ages 4-7
May 2020

My dad says I have two homes now.

Though TV and movies may play up the drama involved with parental separation, Weekend Dad tells how bittersweet it may be for children who live between households. It's not the joy of double houses and playing off one parent against the other. It can be hard and it can be sad. From Naseem Hrab's poignant words to Frank Viva's affective artwork, Weekend Dad is the real story behind a separation within a family.

From Weekend Dad by Naseem Hrab, illus. by Frank Viva
The story starts on a Monday morning when "my dad moved out  of our house and into an apartment." Each day that follows the child is reminded of his dad, whether it's the colour of his hair or his tears at a hamster's death or that he hates tuna fish.

From Weekend Dad by Naseem Hrab, illus. by Frank Viva
But when Friday night comes and it's time for the weekend with his dad, a new reality begins. It's taking a bus to an apartment which is home but not home. And though he has his hedgehog stuffie Wendell, it's different and things makes him feel scared.

From Weekend Dad by Naseem Hrab, illus. by Frank Viva
Their Saturday is filled with new routines from eating eggs for breakfast, playing cards and going to the park, all repeated Sunday. But when it's time to leave, the child is mindful of each parent being alone without him. Still this child must reconcile that his father will not be coming in when dropping him off and to that end, Dad hands him a touching letter about how much he loves him and is always with him.
...you will hear your dad's heart beat, and with each beat, you will hear the words: "You are loved." No instrument can pick this tiny pulse up except for your own heart and imagination.
This is a story of reality but with heart. Mom and Dad aren't going to find their way back to each other. (And Naseem Hrab makes sure not to place blame on either parent or make the story about their relationship. This is all about the child.) Dad's apartment is rather sparse but he's working to make it more for his son.  Naseem Hrab's text from the child's perspective is similarly stark as the situation probably is for any child experiencing a separation within the family. It is what it is. The boy doesn't overthink but he does take it for what it is right now: complex, confusing, and harsh. The only relief is in the dad's words, words that he undoubtedly took time to compose, and which touch with their affection and concern.
From Weekend Dad by Naseem Hrab, illus. by Frank Viva
Between the muted tones of olive drab, rose brown, grey and yellow and the ever-present scribbles of cloud and smoke, Frank Viva's artwork does not divert from Naseem Hrab's text. The upheaval and the austerity of the circumstances are reflected in Frank Viva's ink and digitally coloured illustrations. With few colours and an economy of shape, Frank Viva conveys what this child sees and feels, and it is bleak. But things will change, and Naseem Hrab's final words, having father and son heading off to buy a bed, and Frank Viva's last double spread, a little brighter in colour and alive with activity, indicate things are going to be okay.

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