Friday, January 02, 2015

Even More Bad Parenting Advice by Guy Delisle

Doesn't every grown man secretly want to be Calvin's Dad? Oh, sure, we know we should be good role models and teach kids things that will be useful in the real world -- but isn't making up crazy stories and tricking kids just that much more fun?

Guy Delisle knows that feeling, even if he's not familiar with Calvin and Hobbes (He's originally French, so I have no idea either way.) After a career mostly spent making long books about his experiences living for extended periods in interesting foreign cities -- such as Shenzhen, Pyongyang, and Jerusalem -- he turned to domestic comedy with his previous book, A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting. (And, let's be honest: spending a year in a strange country just to get a book out of it is a difficult career path to sustain long-term.)

Clearly, Neglectful Parenting worked for Delisle -- it worked for me as a reader, but we've already established I'm fond of that parenting style -- because he came back the next year with another collection of comics in the same vein, Even More Bad Parenting Advice. This book has an even better title, which certainly can't hurt.

Both Parenting Advice and Neglectful Parenting are small-format books, just a little wider than a mass-market paperback. And they're laid out somewhat like the old mass-market strip reprint books, with one to three Delisle drawings -- he doesn't use panel borders in this style, so the drawings float near each other -- per page, organized into stories that run around ten to fifteen pages. Each story has Delisle interacting with his children, Louis and Alice, who seem to be early-elementary age at this point: old enough for conversations and some complex concepts, still entirely dependent on parents for all of their everyday needs and still reflexively trusting that parents are smart and correct and wise.

Delisle, of course, portrays himself as none of those things: he's lazy and petty and self-centered, and uses his kids as shields to hide his own inadequacies and wants. It's all quite funny, in a wry way: this isn't "look at these adorable tots" humor, but "I'm not a great human being, but I can use the kids to camouflage that." So it's slightly more sophisticated that most little-kids comics familiar to Americans, but still quite funny and more interesting, since we get a great sense of Delisle's viewpoint and everyday life.

Both of these books are a lot of fun, and I recommend them both to neglectful parents (the best kind of parents) and for the happily childless. I got my copy of Parenting Advice as a gift, though that's only a good idea if you know the recipient's sense of humor -- and likelihood to be offended -- very well.

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