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A warm-hearted picture book that highlights the importance of family connections for young readers.
Solo Dan, written by multi-published WA author Teena Raffa-Mulligan and illustrated by debut Victorian illustrator Kym Langfield, is filled with warmth as Solo Dan discovers he needs more than his shadow for company. After bouncing from home to home like a ball no one can catch, he finds his forever family and learns what it means to belong.
In typical heart-warming and thoughtfully written style, Teena Raffa-Mulligan draws on the topic of foster care / adoption in her latest release, Solo Dan. Coming from a childhood of family abundance and always feeling a sense of belonging, Teena’s story neatly folds into the diversity of what ‘family’ means to every child. Every reader can be comforted and reassured about their place in their own family situation, and if they’re like Dan, there is hope in finding your true sense of belonging and identity.
Kym Langfield’s illustrations cleverly show Dan’s navigation towards self and family acceptance with vignettes and lively spreads of family togetherness, coupled with the solitary portrayal of Dan in his own thoughts and isolated behaviours. Langfield’s colour choices and varying mood is beautifully entwined into the progressive narrative of Dan slowly coming to admit that, although ‘It’s like a circus when Pete’s cousins visit’, or that ‘brothers are a bother’, or the fact that ‘mums are always around’, are actually quite desirable. His realisation that his biological parents don’t know him and that he’s never had a home to call his own emanates this grey, reflective sorrow – a part of the story that the creators have mastered to tug at our heart strings. And with an uplifting climax and palette to match, readers will feel just a little bit ‘luckier’ to have shared in Solo Dan’s journey.
Solo Dan is a touching and thought-provoking story, catering for families who have given a child a place to belong, and for children who can appreciate their own and the differences in other families. This story also reinforces empathy for those who may feel lost or unaccepted, and provides scope for discussion on ways we can include and welcome others into our hearts. Readers in the early years will be lucky to share this book with the ones they love most.
Review by Romi Sharp.
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