In Side by Side, Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Chris Raschka brings readers six portraits of dads with their kids. Most of the pairs are at play: In the first spread, we see a girl riding on the back of her father who’s on all fours and pretending to be a horse. Another reads “Mountain and climber” as a child climbs up his tall father’s body. Some spreads involve more relaxed camaraderie; in one labeled “bed and sleeper,” a child lays on his father’s lap while he quietly reads the newspaper. No matter the scene, each spread conveys a tight emotional bond between child and parent.
Raschka’s simple text is rhythmic and soothing. Each father-child duo takes center stage on these cream-colored spreads without backgrounds. There is nothing extraneous—save one spread with some raindrops and another with a lake in which father and child fish—to distract from the joyous, imaginative play and affectionate closeness depicted in Raschka’s relaxed, gestural watercolors. The elegant opening and closing endpapers show a series of hats and shoes that children will enjoy matching to the right owners.
We pause on a spread in the book’s center to see all the parents and children in a series of multi-colored grids with “side by side” repeated. The final father-child duo is afforded four spreads, and the book closes with the spare and lovely promise of a side-by-side closeness that will last forever.
Julie Danielson conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.