Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, Daddy, Papa and Me by Lesléa Newman and Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee
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8 Children’s Books That Celebrate A Variety of Different Dads

Jun 11, 2018

What makes someone a good dad? If you ask my four-year-old son (and I did), he’d tell you that the thing he loves most about his dad is that “he likes to build things with me, and he always gives me a hug at bedtime.” And for kids, that’s really the key, isn’t it? Spend time with them, give them your attention and affection, and as far as they’re concerned, you’re hitting it out of the park as a dad. Yet, I feel like it can still be hard for fathers to shake the whole “bumbling dad” trope that has persisted for so long in popular culture. While there are plenty of real-life dads out there who are hands-on when it comes to raising their kids, somehow dads on television and in movies are often still depicted as inept babysitters who shouldn’t be tasked with caring for a cactus, let alone another human life. Maybe that’s why it’s so refreshing to find that when it comes to depictions of the father-child relationship, children’s books are really getting it right. With humour and tenderness and inclusivity, children’s book authors are celebrating good dads — in all their different forms — and the special bond that they share with their kids. Here are some of my favourites, just in time for Father’s Day.


Daddy, Papa and Me (By Lesléa Newman, Illustrated by Carol Thompson)

Lesléa Newman’s board book follows a family of three — Daddy, Papa and their little one — through a fun-filled day of play. After dressing up in costumes, Daddy, Papa and their little one zoom paper airplanes and play with cars. Then Daddy and the little one paint, before Papa and the little one bake a pie. This sweet and simple story about two dads and their child is a perfect addition to your wee one’s bedtime library. Recommended for ages 0 to 3. 


The Dressing-Up Dad (By Maudie Smith, Illustrated by Paul Howard)

Danny and his dad love to dress up in cool costumes for any and every occasion, whether they’re hanging out at home or going out somewhere together. But when his dad starts planning a costume for Danny’s upcoming birthday party, Danny finds himself wishing that his dad would skip the dress-up and be a little more ordinary, like all his friends’ dads. Full of heart and humour, Maudie Smith’s story reminds kids that sometimes it’s better to stand out from the crowd. 
Recommended for ages 2 and up.


You and Me, Me and You (By Miguel Tanco)

At its heart, Miguel Tanco’s You and Me, Me and You is as much for adults as it is for children. Told from the perspective of a little boy as he goes about his day with his dad, this sweet story reminds us that, as parents, we learn as much from our kids as they do from us. Recommended for ages 3 to 5.


Some Dads (By Nick Bland)

What kind of dad would a polar bear be? What about a frog, or a turtle? From swimming elephants to rock ‘n’ rolling rhinos, this book depicts dads and their little ones having fun together in all kinds of ways. With simple rhyming text and vivid illustrations, Nick Bland’s celebration of dads and their differences is sure to become your new favourite read-aloud book. Recommended for ages 3 to 7.


Tell Me a Tattoo Story (By Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler)

Every tattoo tells a story, whether it’s a tiny heart or a particular phrase. In this unique book by Alison McGhee, a dad shares the stories behind his awesome ink with his young son. There’s one in honour of his mother, and one for his dad. There’s a tattoo inspired by his son’s mom, and one that commemorates his military service. But the dad’s fifth tattoo is his son’s favourite — and it carries an extra-special meaning that’s sure to resonate with every parent. Recommended for ages 4 to 6.


Dad and Pop: An Ode to Fathers and Stepfathers (By Kelly Bennett, Illustrated by Paul Meisel)

A heartwarming depiction of life in a blended family, Kelly Bennett’s story is told from the perspective of a little girl with two fathers — one called Dad and one called Pop. Dad is her father, and Pop is her stepfather. They’re as different as can be, from the way that they look to their favourite hobbies. One wears boots and one wears suits. One likes fishing and one prefers to swim. But despite their differences, they share one important thing in common: they both love the little girl. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.


Jabari Jumps (By Gaia Cornwall)

In this sweet story from Gaia Cornwall, a little boy named Jabari decides to brave the diving board on a trip to the pool with his dad and little sister. But as he climbs the ladder to the board, his nerves kick in and Jabari has second thoughts about his big plan. With the support and gentle encouragement of his father, Jabari finds the courage to conquer his fear, and learns that the diving board isn’t so scary after all. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.


Thunder Boy Jr. (By Sherman Alexie, Illustrated by Yuyi Morales)

Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, whom people call “Big Thunder.” And while he loves his dad very much, he doesn’t love his name. So Thunder Boy imagines all the names he might like instead, like Star Boy or Touch the Clouds. In the end, his dad surprises him with a new name that is not only perfect, but also celebrates their special bond. Recommended for ages 5 and up.

Article Author Alicia McAuley
Alicia McAuley

Read more from Alicia here.

Alicia McAuley is a freelance writer, editor and all-around web nerd who never met a pop culture reference she didn't like. The former editor of a parenting website, these days she shares a home office in the suburbs with her husband, two adorable boys, and two lazy cats. You can find her cracking jokes on Twitter @aliciamcauley and pinning projects for her to-do list on Pinterest.

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