Blog Tour: My Dad Is a Grizzly Bear by Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Dapo Adeola

Welcome to my stop on Macmillan Children's blog tour for the delightful new picture book My Dad Is a Grizzly Bear, which publishes today.

To celebrate its publication, I'm giving away a brand new copy of the book to one lucky person. Find out how you could win at the end of this blog post. But first, here's my review: 

Huge, hairy, and always hungry — a six-year-old boy's imagination runs wild with thoughts of his dad's irritating bear-like traits. But when a family camping trip turns scary, he soon remembers there's more to Dad than guzzling honey in this funny, warm-hearted story. 

My Dad Is a Grizzly Bear
is the first picture book from new creative duo Swapna Haddow and Dapo Adeola, both award-winners in their own right. Publication of this eagerly anticipated work was delayed due to the pandemic but I'd say it was well worth the wait. 

Haddow's storytelling is engaging, playful, and free-spirited. Loose rhyme leads into friendly prose with oodles of rich description and sound devices, brilliant to extend vocabulary. Read aloud, the lively text will delight children in the EYFS and Year 1. 

Adeola's bold, vibrant illustrations, drawn in ink and digitally finished, complement the amusing text wonderfully. Facial expressions and mannerisms are so well observed, inducing laughs throughout while ensuring each character's personality sparkles. Intriguing perspectives promote understanding beyond the text in specific spreads. For example, a peek at a magic mirror coaxes readers into the boy's imaginative world, supporting his claims of a resident 'bear' while, at the same time, revealing all is not quite what it seems.

Adeola subtly raises our awareness of the myriad of skin and hair tones within Black and Black-mixed families, from dark-brown skin to light, and Black-Afro hair to red. This attention to detail in celebrating variation is expanded in a superbly generous cinema scene where a multiethnic mix of people, including someone with a disability, is represented naturally within the audience. 

The repetition of a woodland trip is justified by Haddow and Adeola's representation of a strong father-son relationship. Their twinning of clothes — they wear the same body warmer on both trips — is an adorable indication of their loving bond (this motif is replicated beautifully in another father-son duo in the cinema spread). We come to realise our young protagonist finds Dad annoying while concurrently idolising him, a duality with which many children can relate regarding their grown-ups. 

Even more joyful is Haddow and Adeola's positive portrayal of a Black father. Despite his grizzly-bear label, Dad is, in fact, a soft-hearted, fun-loving man who initiates family outings and 'encourages' his very young son to go on scout camps. He loves kisses and cuddles, wears pink and pineapples, and sings karaoke at gender-neutral kids' parties. No doubt we'll see even more challenge of gender norms in the sequel — Mum's pajamas, among other cues, offer a tantalising hint of what's to come.
It's a wonderfully zestful, entertaining tale about fathers, sons, and boundless imagination that's sure to become a well-loved favourite. I can already hear the memorable chant 'he is a grizzly bear' singing out from classrooms!

My Dad is a Grizzly Bear, written by Swapna Haddow and illustrated by Dapo Adeola, is out today (29 April 2021) and is available in hardback or paperback from Bookshop

Thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for my review copy and for inviting me onto the blog tour.

Check out my Black Children's Books directory for suggested suitability of all the books I review. The books that I read are also checked against my Jericho Benchmark.

********************************GIVEAWAY TIME******************************

If you would like to WIN a brand new copy of this beary funny picture book, head over to my Instagram @CandidCocoa or Twitter @Kwia35 to find out how to enter. Giveaway closes 11:59pm 7 May 2021 (UK entries only). 

This giveaway is run in conjunction with Macmillan Children's Books.