Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
It was bound to happen, with the prevalence of tattooed folks in America these days. Tell Me a Tattoo Story, thoughtfully written by Alison McGhee and gently, lovingly illustrated by Eliza Wheeler is a sweet story that, based on the many tattoos I have seen on people in my community and on the internet and in magazines, is an idealization of this current cultural trend. Tell Me a Tattoo story posits that there is intention, thought and meaning behind a father's tattoos, which I am sure is the case in many instances. That said, I have a hard time reading this book and not thinking about some of the tattoos I have seen, tattoos that shouldn't be seen by kids or explained to them...
The plot of Tell Me a Tattoo Story revolves around a father telling his son the impetus behind his tattoos. From a dragon to remind him of the book his mother used to read over and over to him (not mentioned by name, but the illustration makes it clear it is The Hobbit) to words his father often said to him, to memories of falling in love with his wife, he explains his ink to his young son.
McGhee's words sometimes tell a different story from Wheeler's illustrations. A tattoo on his stomach marks the "longest trip" he ever took. A page turn reveals the father in army gear, marching with his troop across a desert, gazing a photo of his wife in his hand, his "Be Kind" tattoo showing on his arm. Dad also has a tattoo over his heart, showing the birthdate of his son. The whole text is told in the father's voice, with him answering questions asked by the son that do not appear on the page. It can feel odd at times, but I think it was a smart choice on McGhee's part. It keeps Tell Me a Tattoo Story from being too cheeky or winky, although it teeters on the border of hipsterdom. As someone who believes that there is a book for everything that comes up in life, I wholeheartedly support Tell Me a Tattoo Story.
Source: Reveiw Copy