My dad says I have two homes now. This home is home because my dad is here. And it’s nothing like home because my mom isn’t here.
Weekend Dad, by Naseem Hrab, invites young readers into the life of a little boy whose parents have recently divorced. Using limited text for a young audience and occasional repetition of vocabulary to engage and guide readers, this picture book manages to convey a sophisticated storyline — divorce and joint custody — appropriate for a young readers who may also be experiencing this life event.
The very simple but effective illustrations by award-winning illustrator and designer Frank Viva help tell the story of a young boy who visits his father in his new home on weekends. The text and the illustrations successfully come together to help young readers understand the new normal which arises during divorce, when one parent moves out and the essence of home changes for everybody.
A combination of factors, including a relatable storyline, simple but engaging illustrations, and appropriate and repetitive vocabulary, invite young readers to engage in a story to which they can relate, one absent of animosity, thereby making them feel less alone should they be experiencing this two home situation.
Weekend Dad is both somber and uplifting. The young boy thinks about his father a lot, and the father’s “present” even when the boy is with his mother. For instance, when the boy and his mother eat their tuna sandwiches, the young narrator is reminded of how his father hates tuna. Yet, from this subtle story of divorce, stems empathy, and its contents reveal a deep bond between a father and son as they navigate a new normal, doing new things like riding the bus to the father’s apartment and buying furniture for the son’s room, but also maintaining old routines, or doing the “same things” like playing Kings in the Corner.
Hrab conveys a child’s understanding of complex adult issues, including a father who has moved out and now lives in an empty apartment and who can’t come in and visit when dropping the boy off at home. In Weekend Dad, the little boy feels the absence of his father in his daily life, through small acts including new routines and meals with each parent, each act reminding him of the absence of the other parent. The child, while missing the unity of his family, accepts the new normal and demonstrates deep empathy for his father, packing photos in his father’s suitcase or leaving his favorite stuffie behind to keep his father company while he lives alone in a new apartment without familiar items.
Weekend Dad, which will appeal to a variety of primary readers, skillfully touches on topics children of divorce might experience, including new boundaries established between parents, new routines, and a second home for the child. The relatable storyline for children who have experienced divorce or joint custody may be comforting to young readers, particularly the kindness the young narrator demonstrates toward his father. At the end of the first weekend together in an unfurnished apartment, both the father and son secretly leave meaningful gifts to the other, a gentle reminder of their presence during the long week apart.
In this book for beginner readers, both the story and illustrations come together to help children understand how a parent’s love remains just as strong even though joint custody means they’ve become a weekend parent. Parents, as well, might gravitate to Weekend Dad as the message is appropriate, elegant, and devoid of an overbearing moral about divorce.
Emily Ruffell works full time in a library in London, Ontario, and is also completing her Master of Library and Information Science at Western University.