A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher
After traveling and drawing the world – Pyongyang, Shenzhen, Burma, Jerusalem – comic master extraordinaire Guy Delisle turns inward to his own family with a tongue-in-cheek look at the challenges of being a parent trying to keep his kids safe, supported, loved … as well as distracted and entertained. Interestingly, Nadège – his partner/girlfriend/wife/mother of his children (her monikers have changed throughout various volumes) – whose foreign postings with Médecins San Frontières/Doctors Without Borders made his last two titles (Burma Chronicles and Jerusalem) possible, makes an early half-asleep appearance here. Although we don’t see her again, the two adorable kids, Louis and Alice, both make references to Mom enough times to know that Mom has an ever-so-slightly different parenting style …
If you didn’t love Delisle before, his droll, ludicrous adventures in parenting will undoubtedly make you a groupie. He’s not a very reliable tooth mouse, reduced to writing an apology note complete with little paw print after forgetting his monetary duties two nights in a row. He distracts the kids when Alice swallows an apricot pit by quickly creating a flip book (wow!) showing a tree sprouting out of her belly.
He encourages a timid Louis to “really hit” the punching bag by pretending “it’s your sister!” and then decides to teach Louis about being “half-Canadian” by staging a gruesome prank with a chainsaw which sends Louis screaming for “Mom! Mom!” He can swear with the best of us when the plumbing is not cooperating, even as Louis isn’t quite sure what to do.
He’s maybe not so good at comforting Alice’s Christmas tears when she admits she’s “sad because you and Mom don’t have any presents.” Awwww. And he’s a downright disaster when she can’t sleep because her schoolmate told her about baby snatchers, so he tells her instead about a Malaysian monkey who drops a borrowed baby five stories to its death. He sneaks off to a café when he’s supposed to be watching Alice during a swim lesson, but hurries back in time to wave at just the right moment of floating triumph. When Alice presents him with one of his drawings, his gratitude inadvertently goes a bit off topic with “I’m gonna tell you straight out, you’re not bringing home an Eisner with this stuff.” Geeeez …!
As self-admittedly neglectful as his parenting style might be, his resilient kids seem to have weathered his wacky unpredictability without too much damage. They certainly inspire delightful fodder, even as you’re thinking, ‘good thing they have a mother!’ more often than not.
Published: 2013 (United States)