Picks and Pans Review: Questions from Dad

updated 06/20/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/20/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Dwight Twilley

Too much ain't enough"—the intemperate motto of a Manhattan honky-tonk once called the Lone Star Cafe—could also be the lament of many a divorced dad reflecting on the oases of time he spends with his children. Dads who, like rock singer-songwriter Twilley, see their kids but a few times a year, can find absentee fatherhood an especially anxious, anguished and dispiriting condition.

Twilley, who had a hit with "I'm on Fire" in 1975, had tried communicating with his daughter by letter, but like most kids she was no epistolary pistol. Then in October 1990, when Dionne was 9 and living with her mother and stepfather in Tulsa, Twilley got a better idea. Instead of sending the usual what-do-you-want-for-Christmas query, he devised a humorous "test" full of questions that would be fun for her to answer and would give him a sense of her life and thoughts. A few days after he dispatched it, the test came back with an answer for each of its 37 questions (examples: How far can you get on Mario I? Do you still have your turtle?).

Encouraged, Twilley expanded his tests to 100 questions, adding puzzles, illustrations and "complete the squiggles" sections. In the process, he transformed his relationship with his daughter. He now recounts his personal experience, leading would-be testers by the hand, giving tips and reproducing his own hand-lettered efforts exactly as he sent them to Dionne. With a pencil and a little imagination, anyone can follow his example. (Tuttle, $ 16.95)

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