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Friday, June 15, 2012

Celebrating Dads

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"A father is neither an anchor 
To hold us back 
Nor a sail to take us there 
But a guiding light 
Whose love shows us the way." 

~ Author Unknown

Father's Day is coming up this Sunday, and I wanted to celebrate by sharing some books about dads.  I had some difficulty coming up with new titles of stories that have positive father figures in them, however.  Sure, there's Pa in the Little House books, and Mr. Murray in A Wrinkle in Time and the Time Quintet, John Arable in Charlotte's Web, and Big Nutbrown Hare in Guess How Much I Love You... but I've already shared those books in other posts.

After some searching at the library, I managed to find several picture books about dads, all of which I'd never read before.  Below are the ones I liked the best:

Higher!  Higher!,
written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli, 2009

Using only a few words and her vivid, expressive illustrations, Patricelli paints a whimsical portrait of a little girl on a swing and her obliging father.

Just like the girl in this book, I used to spend a lot of time on swings, asking my daddy to push me higher! higher!  Even though the father in the story doesn’t have any lines, you can tell from the pictures that he’s enjoying spending time with his daughter.


My Daddy and Me,
written by Jerry Spinelli
and illustrated by Seymour  Chwast, 2003

This is a simple, heart-warming story about a pup and his dad, and all the different things they do together -- make cookies, wrestle, plant tomatoes, and more.

I really liked this sweet story. I thought the illustrations were cute, though I would’ve preferred human characters for this one.  (The text itself doesn’t have anything to do with dogs, just a boy and his father.  In my opinion, the book would have even more of an impact if it featured pictures of a human boy and his loving dad.)


Daddy Is a Doodlebug,
written and illustrated by Bruce Degen, 2000

A story about a bug and his dad, this fun book is filled with clever wordplay and visual humor.  Degen entertains readers with his rhyming text, new words he’s created -- like “potoodle chips” and “canoedlebugs” -- and visual puns, like ant lions and rhinoceros beetles in the zoo that father and son visit.

When I spotted this book in the library last week, and saw that it was from the same author-illustrator who made Jamberry (reviewed here), I knew I had to bring it home.  I wasn’t a bit disappointed with it, either; I was delighted!  In addition to the features mentioned above, this story also showcases the special connection between parent and child.


Dad's Bald Head,
written by Paul Many
and illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, 2007

Pete likes watching his father shave every morning, and imitating him by putting shaving cream on his own face.  Then one day, Dad unexpectedly shaves off not only his beard, but the sparse hair on the top of his head as well.  At first, Pete’s not too sure about his father’s change in appearance, but in the end, he decides Dad should keep it.

This is an amusing book that deals with hair loss in a light-hearted way.


Owl Moon,
written by Jane Yolen
and illustrated by John Schoenherr, 1987

This book, which won the 1988 Caldecott Medal, tells of a father who takes his child out in the woods one winter night, hoping to spy an owl.  

Filled with wonder and Yolen’s poetic story-telling, this book reminds me of excursions I’ve been on with my own dad.  (We’ve never been owling, however.)  I enjoyed the language of the book as well as the crisp pictures -- both made me feel like I was there in the woods, too.


The Best Father's Day Present Ever,
written by Christine Loomis
and illustrated by Pam Paparone, 2007

Langley Snail wants to give his dad something special for Father’s Day, but he’s not very crafty, and the store where he planned to buy a gift is closed.  On the way home he comes up with an idea, and it turns out to be the best gift ever.

I liked the light humor of the story, and also the message that kids (and grownups!) can give very meaningful gifts, even without money or great skill.


How Many Stars in the Sky?,
written by Lenny Hort
and illustrated by James E. Ransome, 1991

A young boy is missing his mother (she's away on a trip), and he can’t sleep.  He tries to count the stars in the sky, and heads outside for a better look.  His father joins him, and they go for a ride, first to the city and then into the country, searching for a good place to count the stars.  Finally, exhausted, they sleep under the stars in the back of the pick-up truck.

This book, with its lyrical text and rich paintings, conveys a strong sense of family.  The story reminded me of going out in the wee hours of the night with my dad back in 1986, hoping to see Halley’s Comet.  (Unfortunately, we had about as much luck as the characters in this story do in their quest to count all the stars.)


Tell Me One Thing, Dad,
written by Tom Pow
and illustrated by Ian Andrew, 

It’s Molly’s bedtime, but she’s not sleepy.  Instead, she asks her father questions like: What’s the most important thing you know about a polar bear?  Dad knows all kinds of things about each animal she lists, but the most important is always the same, it loves its babies.  When Dad asks Molly what important thing she knows about him, Molly knows that he loves his baby, too!

This is an endearing story with fanciful artwork!  I can imagine that children would ask to hear this one over and over again.


When trying to think of books featuring dads, I did remember the following middle-grade story from my childhood.  I found my old copy of it and reread it this week:

The Mouse and His Child,

written by Russell Hoban
and illustrated by Lillian Hoban, 1967
This story, considered by many to be one of the great works of children's literature of the 20th century, features toy wind-up mice, father and son, on a quest to become self-winding.  The pair also seek a home of their own and a family to share it with.  Pursued by the evil Manny Rat, their journey takes them from the toy shop to the dump to the swamp, and back again.

I remember really liking this book as a child (I was probably ten or eleven when I first read it), and I appreciated Hoban's magical story-telling even more as an adult.  Much of the book has a dark undertone, but there's also plenty of humor, as well as a sense of hope and perseverance throughout.


Last but definitely not least is this young adult/adult novel, a classic that is often required reading in schools, and one of my favorite books of all time:

To Kill a Mockingbird,
written by Harper Lee, 1960
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is told by Scout, the young daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch.  When Atticus must defend a black man accused of raping a white girl, Scout and her brother Jem learn all about prejudice and justice.  The trust that Scout and Jem have in their father is evident throughout, as is his immense love for his children.

I first read this book when it was assigned for a literature class in high school.  (We also watched the 1962 To Kill a Mockingbird movie, which I highly recommend, as well.)  I've read it many, many times since.  Beautifully written, this is an important book that I feel every young adult should read.  (Every adult, too!)  My daughter Emmalie read it for a class in middle school, and she loved it as much as I do.

Have you read any of the books shown above?  If so, what did you think of them?  Do you have any other suggestions for stories featuring positive father figure characters?

(Psst... if you haven't read about the Big Blue Birthday Contest yet, please check out this post.)


  1. More great books!

    Can you believe I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird? I can't believe it but I do have it on my list to read. I want to read it soon. I have never known of anyone who didn't like it.

  2. Oh, Elaine... I hope it's at the top of your list! :)