Liis Sein began her writing career with plays that have been both staged, and awarded in playwriting competitions. She also co-wrote the screenplay for an Estonian children’s television series. Nevertheless, Sein is best known as a children’s author. She has published ten works to date, many of them picture books.

Mona’s Dad Has Some Ideas is a collection of ten stories about a father who is battling boredom and maybe even a dose of midlife crisis. One morning, he decides that life is too dull and sets out to spice it up with a new job or hobby. He tries his hand at art collecting, cooking, and athletics; dabbles in filmmaking, writing, and hotel management; and flirts with the idea of moving or enrolling at the university. Mona and her mother do their best to rein him in a little and keep his escapades from hurting their family. Luckily, all ends well, and he gets a second wind without damaging any domestic ties.

The hobbies that Mona’s dad picks up are anything but a walk in the park for them. While collecting art, some demanding guests settle into their home: Rembrandt’s night watch must take formation and Wiiralt’s annoying tiger, which hangs above Mona’s bed, constantly wants to snuggle with her. Cohabitating with an ambitious amateur athlete also takes its toll in the form of all-family morning jogs, but his culinary attempts are a source of fun and jokes. Luckily, Mona and her mom have patience in spades and, with feminine elegance, gently steer the events into something suitable for them all.

Sein’s story is realistic and comfortably set in the present day. The book is sprinkled with light fantasy and warm humor, and nothing dangerous or scary transpires. Chapters flow smoothly into one another, though there is no strict linearity. Overall, Mona’s Dad Has Some Ideas is an upbeat book suitable for readers aged seven and up.

Ulla Saar’s illustrations add a vibrant luster and expertly convey the characters’ personalities in a contemporary and elegant style. Her art expands the writing with finely-tuned humor that is a pleasure for all ages. Layers and textures are objects of playful experimentation, and the colors are fresh and vivid. Added as a cherry on top is a color scheme that is prevalent throughout the whole design and only realized by the end of the book: Mona’s dad is yellow, her mom is blue, and she herself is a greenish mixture of the two.

Mona’s Dad Has Some Ideas is a lighthearted funhouse-mirror reflection of a timeless domestic topic: how to break out of a mundane routine. In every one of his endeavors, Mona’s father stays fantastically selfless. How can you collect colorful memories to share with your future grandkids if you don’t lead an exciting life? In any case, readers young and old will be left with bright, fond memories of the book and Mona’s dad’s adventures.

Liis Sein

Mona’s Dad Has Some Ideas

Mona isepäine isa

Illustrated by Ulla Saar

Pegasus, 2022, 88 pp.

ISBN 9789916162354