With Father’s Day approaching, I found myself perusing a section of Father’s Day picture books at a local bookshop. I thought I would find a heartwarming, maybe humorous book about dads that my four-year-old son could give to my husband for Father’s Day. I pictured them snuggled up together, sharing the story, and simply enjoying each other’s company.
The man-child in children’s literature
I picked up a book titled Daddies Do It Different. I was a bit put off by the title (hello, “different” should be “differently” because of adverbs) but thought that the cover illustration was cute. The premise of the book is that Mommy does such things as dressing the children, grocery shopping, and making breakfast in a very normal, organized, and boring way. When Daddy “does it different” things are more fun—the kids’ clothes don’t match, grocery shopping involves cart races, and breakfast becomes a time to build forts with waffles instead of eating them. Basically, this Daddy is a man-child, one of my least favorite tropes in children’s literature, television, and modern society. I would be embarrassed to give this book to my very capable, caring, and fun, but socially acceptable husband.
I looked at some of the other books on the table and was appalled at the abundance of fathers who I would classify as man-children! When Dads Don’t Grow Up, Shopping with Dad, and even the classic Berenstain Bears books portray fathers as over-grown children who don’t behave well in public and must be supervised by their wives.
Perhaps I am taking this too seriously. Perhaps my four-year-old would find these books hilarious and would not notice the negative depiction of fatherhood. I am not willing to take that chance, though. I am fearful that he would internalize the man-child persona and either expect this behavior from my husband or become one of these over-grown children himself one day with his own children.
Positive Father’s Day Picture books
Here are 10 books about daddies that I would love to see my husband read with my son. In these books, dads clean up after themselves, take care of their children without causing a scene, and work together with their partners to raise a family:
Daddy Calls me man by Angela Johnson
This is a book written in verse about a little boy’s interactions with his family and his father, who is an artist. Young readers will enjoy the simple text and the warmth of a family who purely loves each other. In one of the verses, the little boy says that he wants “Big shoes, tie shoes, fast shoes, red and black jump high shoes, line them up by Daddy’s and call them all our shoes.” Angela Johnson beautifully shows a child who longs to be just like his daddy. This book just sounds good as it is read out loud!
Kevin and his dad by irene smalls
Kevin and his dad begin the day by cleaning up the house. As if they were Mary Poppins, they tell jokes and laugh while washing the dishes, putting away the newspaper, and folding the laundry. After their work is finished, this dad and son leave the house for more fun—baseball in the park, a movie, and a slow walk home during which they “have a quiet talk and smile.”
It’s the best day ever, Dad! by Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields wrote an adorable book about a dad and two daughters who spend the day together. The Daddy makes breakfast, teaches the girls how to throw a ball for the dogs at the dog park, and even ends the day by helping the girls make dinner for their mom. The family eats dinner outside while the mom and dad snuggle and the children make a wish on the moon. This is a refreshing book in which a capable dad spends the day with his sweet daughters!
tell me one thing, Dad by Tom pow
Molly and her dad play a game after reading bedtime stories. In this game, Molly asks Dad to tell her “one thing—the most important thing” about such animals as polar bears, crocodiles, and the make-believe Grimalken. Dad playfully shares an important fact about each creature. At the end of the game, Dad reminds Molly that the most important thing is that he loves her!
Tad and dad by David Ezra stein
Tad is an adorable, growing tadpole who dotes on his dad. The frogs swim in their pond together, catch flies together, make music together, and take big jumps together. Tad and his dad have one problem: Tad refuses to sleep on his lily pad each night. Instead, he prefers to sleep on his sleep-deprived dad’s lily pad. Exhausted parents whose own little ones make frequent appearances in their beds will find this one amusing!
the daddy book by todd parr
My son calls Todd Parr’s books “the colorful books.” This is definitely a colorful book about all kinds of daddies. In this book, some work at home, while others work far away. Some sing in the shower and others sing to their children before going to bed. In the end, we find out that all daddies want their children to be just who they are!
mighty Dads by joan holub
Construction and vehicle obsessed children will love to read this one with their dads. Mighty Dads are different construction vehicles who show their off-spring how to work on various construction projects. The rhyming text and bright illustrations should entice the youngest readers!
owl moon by jane yolen
In this classic, quiet, poetic story, a young girl goes owling with her father. This is a book to read with a soft voice. While reading, you can almost feel the cold winter night and hear how the blanket of snow muffles all sounds except the sound of a Great Horned Owl.
Papa, do you love me? by Barbara m. Joosse
In this one, a little boy asks his father the simple question, “Do you love me?” His father responds that he loves his son “more than the warrior loves to leap, more than the bush baby loves the moon, more than the elder loves his stories.” The lyrical book continues as the father describes all of the ways that he loves his child. This one truly gives me chills and happy tears each time I read it or hear it read!
A Special trade by sally wittman
This book is not about a dad or a grandfather, but instead is about a little girl named Nelly who has a special relationship with her neighbor Bartholomew. I included this in the list because Bartholomew loves Nelly like a father or grandfather. At the beginning of the book, Bartholomew pushes Nelly in her stroller. As they both age, they make a special trade and Nelly learns to lovingly push Bartholomew in his wheelchair. This one is out of print and quite expensive on Amazon. Snatch it up if you ever see it at a used bookstore or library sale! It is one for which I am always hunting!
Happy Father’s Day to all of the book-loving and book-sharing fathers, grandfathers, and father-figures!