Tell me a tattoo story

Daddy’s arms are good for hugs.

They’re big and strong and colorful, too. They look kind of like one of your favorite picture books; in fact, Daddy says the drawings on his arms are just like a story to him. In the new book “Tell Me a Tattoo Story” by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, each picture says something important.

Not a day goes by that the little boy doesn’t want to see his Daddy’s tattoos. Yes, he’s seen them before, many times, and he knows exactly why they’re there. He never gets tired of hearing about them.

The one on Daddy’s shoulder is a picture from a book that his mother used to read to him when he was a little boy, a long time ago. She read that book “over and over and over,” and Daddy remembered it well.

The tattoo under Daddy’s wrist is a reminder of something that his Daddy used to say. Daddy has great memories of his father, the kindness he showed, and the lessons he taught. The tattoo is just two words, but it helps keep those words fresh.

The big colorful tattoo on Daddy’s arm? Oh, that reminds him of a very good day when he met the most beautiful girl in the world and saw her dazzling smile. She’s still beautiful, by the way; Daddy’s sure the boy would know.

On the other hand, the tattoo on his ribs reminds him of “the longest trip” he ever took, and how much it made him sad and lonely. It was a trip far, far away and Daddy missed his family. He was awfully homesick then.

But the “dinky little heart” tattoo on Daddy’s chest – the one with the numbers inside it – that’s the little boy’s favorite one of all. There’s something very special about it, and its story is very meaningful.

It might, in fact, be the most important tattoo of all…

Have you ever met a preschooler who didn’t like a good story? When you think about it, isn’t a tat just another way of telling some sort of tale? Put ‘em together, and “Tell Me Tattoo Story” is a nice mix of the two.

With a different spin on the classic tell-me-about-the-day-I-was-born preschooler favorite, author Alison McGhee brings a Dad’s version of a child’s life to the page. It’s lovingly obvious that Dad’s told this story many times because he only hints at certain parts; still, it’s familiar and comforting to the boy, who’s heard it all before. I loved the implied intimacy of that family tale, and the way it’s told.

No children’s picture book is complete without pictures, of course, and illustrator Eliza Wheeler does an exceptional job in this one. Look closely at the Dad, at what he’s doing and what he remembers. You’ll be charmed.

This is a sweet book for kids ages 3-to-6, especially if you’ve got a tat tale to tell. In that case, your child will naturally want “Tell Me a Tattoo Story” in their arms tonight.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at

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