As with many Norwegian imports, this one—an exploration of domestic violence—packs an emotional wallop.
At first, Daddy is “cheerful as a bag of lemon drops.” After a sudden, apparently unprovoked mood change, his voice “gets padlocks,” and a closed door behind the voice hides a dark cellar where “someone is waiting.” Little Boj’s fear is palpable; the third-person narration describes his attempts to be quiet and good, to silently plead with Daddy not to let “Angryman” out. The enraged father outgrows the page, his monstrous body filling with fiery strokes of color as he lifts the mother while the boy cowers in the corner of the mixed-media compositions. Boj’s desperate feelings overtake instructions to be silent, and help comes from a caring neighbor. Father, mother, and son have straight, dark hair and creamy skin that darkens or reddens as emotions play out. The text and images combine in surreal fashion what is actually happening with what the son is feeling/imagining—an effective strategy to maximize impact while avoiding displays of physical contact. While the number of sentences and pages are longer than in most American picture books, the story conveys the complexity of the protagonist’s exterior and interior worlds, realistically capturing the perception of time and repeated refrains that accompany fear.
Not for the timid, this may be most appreciated as bibliotherapy, its powerful saga signaling to hurting readers that they are not alone—and that asking for help can bring relief. (Picture book. 7-11)