ISBN 978-1-4847-6760-3 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R* 4-8 yrs
Mom drops her son off at Grandpa’s house, and it looks like it might be a loooong day. Grandpa, trying his hardest to be accommodating, has prepared the boy a hot dog rather than his own pho bowl. Table conversation goes nowhere, with Grandpa’s Vietnamese and the grandson’s English crossing paths, and when they settle onto the sofa to watch some TV, the dragon film Grandpa selected isn’t making magic for either of them. The boy slinks off to color in his sketchbook, turning himself into the caped hero of his own adventure, and when Grandpa sees this, he brings out his own book, ink pot, and brush, painting himself as dragon slayer. Text and artwork now break free of the tidy, staid sequential art that has dominated to this point. The boy narrates that now “we see each other for the first time. All the things we could never say come pouring out.” Their art styles converge and reach an impasse at a crucial point in their painted story, and “that old distance . . . comes ROARING BACK” like the fiercest of dragons. This time, however, Grandpa [End Page 435] unleashes color while his grandson slays with black and white, and together they bridge their cultural chasm. Lê’s spare, formal text is an exceptional foil to Santat’s initially controlled—and then explosive—artwork, blending Western and Asian elements in a visual language that speaks profoundly to readers on both sides of artistic, generational, or cultural divides.