The Children's Book Compass

A New David Almond Book

Posted on: March 23, 2011


Slog’s Dad by David Almond.  Illus. Dave McKean.  (2011) 58 pages.  Candlewick Press.  Grades 4-8.  Novel.

The team of Almond and McKean has created a memorable short novel that resonates long after the last page is read.  The illustrations begin the story with the first few pages showing the heavens and then successively focusing on a tiny green dot that becomes the earth then closer views as if coming in from outer space.  England comes into focus, then a city, an urban park and next a figure sitting on a park bench with the final illustrations showing close up views of the  man on the bench.  Then the text begins.  The narrator, Davie, tells how his friend, Slog, and he have been playing all day.  As the boys go to buy a sandwich, Slog notices the figure on the park bench across the square.  He believes it is his dad come back from the dead.  Davie then tells the backstory of Slog’s dad, his work as a binman forever singing hymns as collected the town’s trash.  “…everybody liked Slog’s dad, Joe Mickley, a daft and canny soul.”  Then Joe becomes ill and Slog looks for comfort from Davie especially when Joe’s legs have to be amputated and he dies.  Slog cries out to Davie – “I’m bigger than me dad, Davie.  I’m bigger than me bliddy dad!”  Slog’s encounter with the man in the park convinces him that his dad is back as he promised in the spring.  Davie is not too sure even when he tests the man with questions about his life.  The reader is left uncertain.  However, the power of this story is that it leaves the reader with questions.  How do we deal with our grief?  What comforts us when we lose someone we love?  What do we believe about life after death?  McKean’s illustrations alternate with the text on separate pages and add drama to the story.  Use the document camera to show the illustrations if you read this book aloud in your classroom.  The British vocabulary enriches the story and should spark discussion about the differences in the way English is spoken in different parts of the world.

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