June Kang begins his book with an introduction, explaining to parents his technique of encouraging children’s creativity and empathy by “explaining [his] real stor[y] in a detailed and interactive way.” Toward that end, he offers next to the children themselves a set of guidelines for drawing and interacting with colorful doodles that illustrate his narration, offering them a chance to play with the shapes and come up with their own stories. He follows with a short tale of how he met his child’s mother and came to have a child, and the effect that has had on his life, continuing with a few words of advice to help his child live a better and more creative life.
The doodles are what really make this book – they are clever, bright, charming, and not least, are tools that kids can engage with and try for themselves. Doodling as a path to storytelling and creative expression is a tried and true teaching method, and Kang’s doodles are so appealing and full of life that they will tempt any child with an artistic bent to try the technique for themselves. The message behind the book is full of warm and unconditional love, promising children that they are cherished and valued by their daddies, and that their daddies want the best for them in life – but will not “handicap” them by making their lives too “easy and simple”.
The advice he offers is generally good, although “don’t be afraid to move first, think later” is illustrated by a horse running off a cliff, which is perhaps not the sort of “move first, think later” behavior a parent wishes to encourage. In places, the language could be simplified and clarified to be more accessible to small children – “I actively sought ways to expand my comfort zone,” for example, could be, perhaps, “I wasn’t afraid to try new things and go to interesting new places”. Also, the book could use a quick edit for minor grammar errors like “it is no doubt” rather than “there is no doubt”, or the use of the singular “guideline” for doodles when there are multiple “guidelines”.*
OUR FIRST DANCE is a warm, tender expression of paternal love, illustrated by delightful and intriguing doodled drawings.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader
* The author has stated that these errors were corrected in the final version of the book.