Again, this book was another one of those lucky finds as I wandered around in the library: a book of short stories for reluctant readers, and a book about things boys think and wonder about written just for boys (many of whom are reluctant readers).

The title story, by Sean Taylor, is probably my favorite, because it inverts the traditional roles assumed by fathers and sons, or even by parents and children. It’s not that other stories haven’t tried this (it’s been tried numerous times in the movies, usually with some sort of annoying supernatural twist), but that Taylor makes it utterly credible, without resorting to stereotypes or hackneyed situations.

(I feel obligated to point out that this is not the US football player who was shot, or the US comic artist and writer, but this Sean Taylor, who grew up in Surrey.)

Other stories are about:

  • A doctor (make that physician) proves to be far more interesting that his son imagined.
  • A boy’s dead father comes back from the dead with warnings for all his friends.
  • His parents’ separation and a long car trip teach a boy much about where his father came from.
  • A boy finds out that his dad really is a superhero after all.

I won’t give away too much more. There’s a bit of science fiction, a bit of sports, a bit of mystery. Something, in short, to please every reader. Don’t feel obligated to read every story, and don’t feel obligated to read this book straight through. But do pick up a copy to share with your son or your father this Father’s Day (which is tomorrow). Enjoy!

This book was originally published in the United Kingdom under the title Like Father, Like Son? and with the cover you see at the left. Like Father, Like Son? is a much better title, given the themes these stories touch on. After all, “My Dad’s a Punk” is the name of one of the more interesting stories in the book, and while it’s adequate for that story, it doesn’t really say anything about the rest of they stories. Why should it?

As for the UK cover, it’s both visually arresting and symbolic of the themes evoked in the stories. There’s nothing wrong with the US cover, particularly, and although leaving out the face of the teen depicted suggests that identity will be an issue, it’s still not as evocative of the overall themes as the UK cover.

I guess it’s too much to have a couple of pairs of underwear on the cover of a US edition. Too provocative for most people. As for the title, this goes along with my observation that books in the United States shouldn’t have titles that ask people to think too much. I wrote about this in an earlier post, and thought that this idea was just my being silly or petulant, but when I look at books originally published elsewhere and see how they are marketed in the United States, it seems that publishers think the book-buying American public is both prudish and reluctant to think. Either that, or they’re doing their best to avoid having their book challenged by all the would-be censors out there. Oh well.

Work Cited

Bradman, Tony, ed. My Dad’s a Punk: 12 Stories About Boys and Their Fathers. Boston: Kingfisher, 2006.

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