A young boy sees his father only once every other week, when he visits him in prison.
Their relationship is very complicated. This unnamed boy loves, hates, fears, pities his father. He admires his father’s strength, his talent for mimicry, and his sense of humor. He blames his father for causing the pain and sadness in his mother’s eyes. But mostly he hates and fears his father’s anger, especially when it is directed at him. His father cries when the visit is over, reawakening his son’s love. The title refers to one of the two colognes his father wears; the boy much prefers hazelnut over peppermint with its more pleasant, even hopeful, associations. Translated from the French, the tale is told in brief, sharp sentences that describe constantly changing bursts of emotions in both father and son while taking care to avoid sentimentality or pathos. Reasons for his incarceration are not given, which might cause anxious questions. Readers will find their own reactions changing from moment to moment as they feel the boy’s confusion and pain. Zaü’s smudgy, sepia graphics depict the characters as racially ambiguous in highly charged emotional scenes that perfectly match the text. Youngsters who might be in similar situations will find comfort, or at least recognition.
An empathetic and powerful evocation of a rarely examined family dynamic. (Picture book. 6-10)