Friday, July 24, 2015


Title: Daniel the Draw-er
Author: SJ Henderson
Publisher: Createspace (Self-published)
Pages: 142

Daniel the Draw-er is a charming book for children that holds appeal for grownups too. Written as the first person present tense account of Daniel, the book is sure to appeal to readers.

Nine-year-old Daniel is a remarkable voice. He has just the right mix of naiveté and the ability to see through the pretense of the adults around him. He makes observations about adults, how they are supposed to be smart, but aren’t always. How they are always making pronouncements about what is or isn’t healthy for children.

Even as he speaks of big things, he remains a child, his childishness seen through the little details, the way he drinks straight from the carton and wipes his milk moustache on his sleeve.

Still childlike enough to want a superhero’s cape, he is still mature enough to fight his own battles, although from the grownup’s point of view, he can be difficult at times. Set fire to one kitchen and everyone freaks out.

Daniel has only one friend at school. Annie.  Even as his mother pesters him to make new friends, he insists that Annie is the only friend he needs. Annie, his best friend, smells of peanut butter and wears her brother’s old jeans. Immediately you get a word picture of the character. You don’t need any extensive descriptions after that.

Daniel has a great imagination. He draws machines with awesome powers. One of his creations is a robot named Pi-zzabot who bakes a pizza and does your Math homework too. Or a bear with octopus-like tentacles on the lower half of his body.

When the tip of his pencil breaks off, he begins to draw with a pencil he finds in the attic. What he doesn’t know is that this pencil is magical, so anything he draws with it comes alive.

His find is so awesome that Daniel cannot bring himself to share it, not even with Annie. And so there is a rift in their friendship. Annie moves on to other friends, and Daniel is left to mull over and regret his selfishness.

Of course, it is a children’s story, and everything works out well in the end, with assorted fantastical characters joining in the good fight against big bully Bucky Thomas on behalf of Daniel.

And of course, the magic pencil also has a magic eraser attached to one end, so some troubles can just be erased out of existence.

The characters, as seen through Daniel’s perspective, appear eccentric and amusing. Young Daniel describes Tommy, his sister Lila’s latest boyfriend as having just enough hair on his chin to make it look like he’s super-glued a caterpillar there and smelling of microwave burritos and cat litter.

Daniel’s observations on most girls are amusing. He has a delicious tone of irony when Lila corrects his English and he tells us that Tommy needs the correction more. After all, it is Tommy who refers to Daniel as a draw-er, when artist is the right word.

He expresses a wry opinion on his mom’s cooking skills, particularly her infamous meatloaf, Dad’s toys in the attic, and Lila’s crazy attempts to make herself look pretty.

About Dad, who is officially least favourite parent, he says, Never mind him. We both know Mom’s the one in charge.

I read this story out loud to La Niña and El Niño  and both gave it a delighted thumbs up. They giggled through the reading, particularly when Pi-zzabot and Mr Whiskers, the cat, came on the scene.

Of course, I exercised parental discretion when reading Daniel’s observations out loud, toning them down suitably to suit the ears of my wee ones, and omitting passages that might shock them. Or give them ideas.

There was one place where Daniel rolls his eyes on hearing his mother’s words. 

That sort of behaviour, fellow-parents, you will agree, must be nipped without mercy.

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