The American Library Association’s Booklist has given How to Cheer Up Dad a starred review in the March edition. Woot! Woot!
The expressive illustrations set the tone for this story demonstrating filial challenges and ongoing love. From the book jacket onward, Little Jumbo, a lively young elephant, is into or on top of everything, including Dad’s stomach. Dad is not happy. Little Jumbo, however, is. When Dad forgets his son doesn’t like wearing his brown overalls, the gray-and-brown colored art, highlighted with spots of color, shows triumphant, naked Jumbo running free, with a frantic father trying to catch him. Despite this kind of action, Koehler’s true focus is on the visual interchanges between these two well-defined and charming characters. With the setting’s minimalist backgrounds, facial expressions are easy to observe and decipher. Young readers will also learn a bit about empathy as the story progresses from Dad’s trials to Little Jumbo’s plans to make amends through shared pleasures, such as giving a hug, playing ball, reading a book. All seems resolved until the final page, where childhood antics are celebrated once again. This debut author-illustrator gets the father-son relationship just right in a story that’s warm and memorable. — Edie Ching