A book about fatherly love, a collection of illustrations that explore the fascination of a boy for his father’s tattoos and tells the stories behind them. Each one has tremendous meaning, says McGhee, It’s a story of family love, and it becomes a life story, too, because the dad’s tattoos express major passages of his own life.
Written for children by Alison McGhee, the story of the little protagonist follows the bedtime story ritual but in a brand new, unique way: instead of tales about princesses, pirates and dragons, the little boy listens to the very many episodes which have inspired the designs printed his father’s skin.
The idea for Tell Me a Tattoo Story first came to McGhee when an acquaintance mentioned the lack of kids books about tattooed parents. But it wasn’t until her 18 year old son wanted a tattoo of his own that McGhee seriously considered the project.
I hadn’t really thought of tattoos. I don’t have any myself, and I thought, ‘It’s his decision.’ I’ve always been kind of a hands-off mother, McGhee explains. So I jokingly texted him back, ‘Well, not as long as it’s a heart with the word ‘Mom’ in the middle.’
But then, her son came home with a totally unexpected tattoo: it was a depiction of the protagonist from his favorite children’s book — The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf — about a Spanish bull who’d rather smell flowers than fight. Alison has been so moved by that image that she started crying and this step made her open eyes to the meaning of tattoos. They’re works of art, and most of the time, there’s very personal meaning behind them, and I’m fascinated with those stories, says the author.
In Tell me a tattoo Story it’s the parent that open the eyes of his child to the deep, emotional meaning of body art and the Wheeler’s illustrations help to visualize that kind of meaning, too. Wheeler spent hours researching the art form in order to design the father’s collection based on what McGhee wrote, basically mixing the early 1900s old school style with a modern feel, in order to communicate the concept of a modern family, living in the present but taking the best from the past.
A few of the father’s pieces include a dragon based on a children’s book that his mother read to him when he was a child – could it be a remind of what McGhee had been inspired by or a tribute to his beloved son?, a Ferris Wheel to represent the day he first met his wife, and a miniature heart with the boy’s birth date (the same year as McGhee’s son) in the middle.
Even though many parents still discourage their children from getting body art today, the book has been widely praised, especially by tattooed moms and dads.
Tell Me a Tattoo Story illustrates the importance of that families place on body art. It is more that just a heartwarming tale about a boy and his farther bonding. It captures how we color our dearest memories, just like our bodies, with emotion.