Dads come in all shapes and sizes, but seen through the loving eyes of his little daughter, he is a giant, a superhero, a protector and “with dad by my side, there’s nothing we can’t do”.
In “Dad By My Side” our hero appears in the form of a huge, rotund, hairy and bearded behemoth of a man. A gentle giant with a tough, unbreakable exterior, but on the inside, he’s soft putty in his little girl’s hands. This fantasy father figure is imagined from the creative brush of Russian artist Snezhana Soosh (Снежана Суш).
Soosh gathered an impressive Instagram following @vskafandre in early 2016 when she posted a series of watercolour illustrations that went viral, depicting the heartwarming bond between a dad and his little girl. Her followers were relentless in their requests for prints and a book of these moving father and daughter images.
In 2017 Soosh’s followers were rewarded for their persistence when she announced that she had signed a contract with Little Brown Books for Young Readers to publish her debut book “Dad by my side”. Expressing her gratitude to the Little Brown Books team she said, “I have never thought before how much work and love from so many people is needed to create one book! This is quite a revelation to me! Let alone, being a part of the process!”
Instagram fame is now a legitimate springboard to successful publishing deals for many aspiring artists. Charlie Mackesy also received a publishing deal for his highly successful debut book “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse” following the viral success of his simple ink drawings that struck a chord with his Instagram followers. The appeal of a readymade Instagram audience is obviously an attractive one for publishers looking to minimise their risk and maximise sales with first-time authors.
Sometimes words fail to express that special bond between a father and daughter. Soosh conveys those simple yet magical moments so empathically and delicately through her watercolours that one would imagine these moments sprang from the memories of times with her father. Sadly, Soosh did not have a strong, loving relationship with her own father and instead expressed the bond she desired to have with him.
In a HuffPost interview, she said “I always wanted to have a tender and loving relationship with my own father, but he didn’t know how to show his love. So most of the time he was distant and cold. I was observing other fathers with their daughters and so loved each tender moment they had together. I think I drew what I lacked and very much wanted — to feel loved and protected by my big papa. I hope fathers will see how important they are in their kids’ lives and feel appreciated and inspired to show their love and affection. I also want to say that real strength shows itself through love and tenderness.”
Soosh uses an earthy watercolour pallette in her illustrations which exudes a warm and comforting nostalgic feel. For me, the undeniable charm of these characters is the over-exaggerated size and proportions between father and daughter, which is reminiscent of a technique used by Disney artists in many of their cartoons and animations, like the father (King Fergus) and daughter (Merida) in the animated feature Brave. Note how the father’s forarm is the same size as the daughter’s upper torso, and his fist the size of her whole head.
In her author’s note, Soosh explains why she did this: “He is deliberately big, much bigger than the figure of the little girl, his daughter, because this is how she sees him and this is how many of us see our heroes or parents (which, if we are lucky, are the same thing).” She goes on to expand on his hairy appearance: “His beard makes me think of something ancient, strong, solid. He is someone who is there just because: to love you without any reason, unconditionally and forever.”
“Dad By My Side” is presented in a series of vignettes that speak to the tender bond between a father and his little princess. Each moment is a precious snapshot of those everyday magical moments that most dads can relate to. Like cuddles on the couch, playing puppet theatre, burying her pet turtle, singing her to sleep by telephone when he is far from home, sleeping on the edge of the bed while she takes up all the space, storytime and protecting her from monsters under the bed. Dad will do anything for his little girl. Alas, these moments are all too fleeting.
Please enjoy browsing a few of my favourite moments from “Dad By My Side” below. For another heart warming picture book about father and son relationship check out my review of “My Dad, My Rock”.