Tuesday, June 15, 2021

20 Children's Books for Father's Day

These are 20 of our favorite children's books for Father's Day! They are silly and serious, tender and fun, and written by diverse authors with representation diverse dads, grandfathers, and families.


Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

By Barack Obama

Illustrated by Loren Long


Barack Obama wrote this gorgeous, inspiring book as a letter to his daughters. He tells the girls that they have each of many admirable character traits (brave, strong, kind, inspiring, etc.) and then gives a brief description of a famous person who exemplifies that quality. At the end, he celebrates the diversity of people who make up the USA. This book is so endearing and gives enough information about many different people to spark interest in lengthier biographies. Ages 4-8




By Jamie L. B. Deenihan
Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

“You wanted a special house for your dolls. But, surprise! It’s a... toolbox.”
“Do not launch it into outer space, feed it to a T. Rex, or tie it to a wrecking ball.”
“With guidance and lots of practice, you’ll discover that you’re actually quite handy.”

What should you do when Grandpa gives you a toolbox instead of the dollhouse you wanted? Perhaps you will find some uses for it that end up surprising you and helping your neighbors! This is such a delight! The cadence of the text reminds me of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” but this is a really sweet book about family, community, and being open-minded to new things. Ages 3-7




“‘Our people were stolen from Africa and shipped to this continent in chains,’ Daddy says. ‘But no one could lock away their dreams. They dreamed on this land during slavery. They dreamed on this land as they made a way out of no way and fought Jim Crow. Seventy-five years ago, a farmer and a teacher bought this land.’ Daddy gazes at Granny. ‘And look at us now.’”

By Kelly Starling Lyons 
Illustrated by Daniel Minter

Dreamy watercolors and geometric patterns blend the past with the present in this story of multigenerational family members coming together to celebrate and remember. Lil Alan loves the annual family reunion with his great grandmother and extended family, but he doesn’t have an idea for his contribution to the celebration time when everyone will offer a tribute to his late great grandfather. As he spends time with his dad, who reminisces about his childhood and then tells the story of their ancestors, Lil Alan finally has an idea about how to honor his family. I am amazed at how much meaning is packed into this one little book. An important criterion to look for in diverse children’s books is that stories tell the truth about what happened to oppressed people while still showing that they had agency. This book fits the bill. It so warm and filled with love and family pride. I can’t recommend this enough! Ages 4-8




Drawn Together

By Minh Lê

Illustrated by Dan Santat


What a stunning, unique, and powerful book! With very few words, this tells about a little boy and his grandfather learning to communicate when they don’t speak the same language. Through art, they connect and say the things that could never be said with words. The soul of this book is as beautiful as the artwork. Ages 3-5




Hair Love

By Matthew A. Cherry

Illustrated by Vasti Harrison


If you’ve been following me for a minute, you know that we love books illustrated by Vashti Harrison. This another beauty! Matthew A. Cherry has written a sweet, endearing story about a father helping his daughter with her beautiful, natural hair for the first time. Her hair can do so many things, but she must find the perfect style for a special occasion. Cherry gives us a glimpse into an intimate, warm moment between a father and daughter while celebrating black beauty. At the end, Mommy comes home and the family is happy to be reunited. Beautiful book! Check out the short film that goes with it but grab a Kleenex before you watch the film! Ages 3-5




Stolen Words

By Melanie Florence

Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard


“Will you teach me your words?

His heart danced as he nodded,

holding the book against his chest.”


This is one of the most powerful children’s books I have read! A little girl asks her grandpa how to say “grandfather” in Cree, his native language. Greatly saddened, he explains how his language was stolen from him as a child. At the end, the granddaughter finds a way to get the stolen words back. So much is expressed through simple text... the power of language, culture, and family. I love the introduction to a few words in the Cree language. I was so touched by this story and appreciated the combination of hard truth-telling with inspiration and hope. The author, who is of Cree/Scottish heritage, wanted to honor her own grandfather with a story of how she wishes things could have been between the two of them. Such a special story! Ages 6-9



A Morning with Grandpa

By Sylvia Liu 

Illustrated by Christina Forshay 


This is such a fun, playful book about Mei Mei and her grandpa, or Gong Gong. First he teaches her some slow, gentle movements from tai chi, and she puts her own spunky spin on them. Then she teaches him some yoga poses she learned at school. At the end, an author’s note tells more about tai chi and yoga. This is a celebration of the grandfather/granddaughter relationship as well as a light, fun introduction to these two types of movement. This is cute as can be! Ages 4-8





Grandfather Ghandi

By Arun Ghandi and Bethany Hegedus

Illustrated by Evan Turk


“‘Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.’”


This is such a cool book! Ghandi’s grandson Arun collaborated with the author in the writing of this book about what it was like for Arun to live in Ghandi’s village as a young boy. Arun worries that his emotions are too out of control and will keep him from making his grandfather proud. Ghandi patiently explains that everyone gets angry and that anger is like electricity. It has the power to destroy, like lightening. It can also be channeled into positive action and has the power to illuminate, like a lamp. This is a powerful story about emotions and the choices we make in determining what to do with them. Such a helpful message for children as they learn to navigate big feelings! Ages 4-8



Ojiichan’s Gift

By Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated by Genevieve Simms


I loved this book! It tells the story of Mayumi, a little girl who goes to Japan to visit her grandfather each summer. When she was born, he made her a garden of stones that they enjoy tending together for many years. When her grandfather must move away, she comes up with a creative idea about how to remember their treasured garden and feel connected to each other. She makes a tiny portable rock garden for her grandfather and another one for herself. I love this story about family, nature, and making memories. Ages 3-7



I Love You More Than…

By Taye Diggs

Illustrated by Shane W. Evans


“I love you more than I love dancing….

But I love making up moves and moonwalking with you”


I have never seen a book quite like this one! A father describes how much he misses his son whenever they can’t be together. He expresses his love for his son through recollections of all of their favorite things to do together. This book is tender, simple, and oh-so-endearing. This is a powerful counter-narrative to the media-perpetuated stereotype of absent or uninvolved black fathers. Though all children can enjoy it, it is especially perfect for kids who live separately from a parent or have a parent who is away from home for extended periods of time. Ages 4-8



Enemy Pie

By Derek Munson

Illustrated by Tara Callahan King 


I got to be the “mystery reader” for my daughter’s second grade class. I brought Enemy Pie to read, and the kids loved it! It’s about a boy who doesn’t get along with another little boy and asks his dad what to do about it. His dad pulls out a recipe for enemy pie and proceeds to make it, but there’s a caveat— for the pie to work, the boy has to spend a whole day with his enemy and be nice to him. The two boys end up having fun together and become friends, so the main character panics when his dad brings out the pie. He can only imagine what it will do to his new friend until the boys notice that the dad has already started eating a piece of pie. This is such a great book told from the child’s point of view. The second graders I read to debated whether the pie was magic and didn’t harm anyone because the boys were no longer enemies or the dad tricked them into spending time together. It's a book about friendship and getting along with others, as well as fatherly advice passed down to his child.



Tiny, Perfect Things

By M. H. Clark

Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper


I am just thrilled to share this one--one of my very favorite picture books! It’s the story of a grandfather and his granddaughter going on a walk, looking for tiny, perfect things: a spider web, a crow, a yellow leaf, a snail, and other simple treasures. In our busy, entertainment-centered culture, this book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a celebration of slowing down, observing and finding joy in the small beauties around us. There’s a quiet intimacy between the grandfather and the little girl, and I love the representation of a multi-racial family. It would be the perfect introduction to a nature studies lesson. Ages 5-8



My Dad’s Jokes Are Very (Terribly, Awfully, Painfully) Bad!

By Jacob Eckeberger 

Illustrated by Keith Zarraga


“‘How does Moses make his coffee?’

‘Just run! Leave!’

‘Hebrews it!’

‘We were too late. I knew it.’”


Who doesn’t love a good, punny dad joke? This brand new book is so much fun for parents and littles, alike. A young son tries to warn readers about his dad’s horrible jokes, but his dad keeps right on telling them, one after another. Can you get to the end of the book without laughing? With rhyming text that will make kids chuckle, this is the perfect book for kids who are just getting to the stage where they love word play. It would make a great Father’s Day gift for dads to enjoy with their kiddos.



These Hands

By Margaret H. Mason

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper


This book is so full of tenderness and meaning. Little Joseph’s grandfather tells about all the things “these hands” used to be able to do, can still do in teaching his grandson, and some of the things “these hands” were not allowed to do when the law upheld discrimination. I love how this book introduces the idea of racism couched in a story about the love and tenderness between a grandfather and grandson. The love serves as a cushion to the hard parts, eliciting empathy infused with hope. Grandfather tells specific ways he was affected by racism based on real-life discriminatory policies that existed at the Detroit Wonder Bread factory in the 1950’s and ‘60s. However, he is not portrayed as a victim of his circumstances; instead, he is an active participant in the fight to make things better so that his grandson can enjoy a more just world. I’m always amazed when one short children’s book can include so many profound themes! This one packs in love, justice, hope, pride, family, and community. We adore this one and hope you will check it out! Ages 4-7



Our Favorite Day

By Joowon Oh


"Thursdays are my favorite days."

"Mine, too."


This is just about the sweetest book I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s simple, like many of the best and truest things are. Every morning, Papa wakes up, drinks tea, waters the plants and tidies up before going into town. But on Thursdays, he buys special craft supplies and two orders of his favorite dumplings to go. The anticipation builds until finally his granddaughter arrives. They share a meal and make a kite together, both agreeing that Thursday is their favorite day. I’m not an overly sentimental reader, but this one had me teary. The mutual love and affection is just so touching, and the watercolor with paper collage illustrations are interesting and inviting. We all loved this one! It’s simple enough for the littlest readers, but even my big kid enjoyed it. Ages 3-7



I Talk Like a River 

By Jordan Scott

Illustrated by Sydney Smith


“When the words around me are hard to say, I think of the proud river, bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing. And I also think of the calm river behind the rapids where the street is smooth and glistening. This is how my mouth moves. This is how I speak. Even the river stutters. Like I do.”


Based on the author’s own experience, this is a gorgeous book about a little boy who feels frustrated when he can’t get the words out that he wants to say. His dad takes him to a river and tells him that he talks like a river. This becomes a helpful, calming, empowering revelation to the little boy in this beautifully poetic book. As I’ve talked to my daughters about people who have/have had a speech impediment (President Biden and Amanda Gorman), I really appreciated being able to read this with them to give them a window into the experience and build understanding.



By Miriam B. Schiffer; Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

When the teacher announces that the class will have a Mother’s Day party, Stella is worried because she doesn’t have a mother to bring. When her classmates find out she doesn’t have a mother, they ask her who packs her lunch and reads her bedtime stories? She tells them that Daddy and Papa do. When they ask who kisses her when she gets hurt, she says, “Well, that’s a long answer. I get lots of kisses when I’m hurt. Either from Papa or Daddy or Nonna or Aunt Gloria or Uncle Bruno or Cousin Lucy.” One of her friends has the perfect solution— she should bring them all! This is a helpful exploration from children’s perspectives about what defines a family. We all have different people who take care of us. Such a sweet story! Ages 5-8



Harriet Gets Carried Away

By Jessie Sima

 

I got carried away right along with Harriet in this playful, imaginative book! Harriet loves costumes and wears them every day, year round. She decides to be a penguin for her dress-up birthday party. When she accompanies her dads to the store to pick up items for the party, she wanders off and finds a group of penguins. They lead her on an adventure and she has quite a lot of excitement on her way back to find her dads at the store—she is helped by an iceberg, a parachute, an orca, and some bird friends. This is a magical, whimsical celebration of imagination. Young children will be carried away right along with Harriet and find satisfaction in her return to the safety of her home base. We loved this book! Ages 4-8




Papa, Daddy, & Riley

By Seamus Kirst; Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth 


This beauty is a feast for the eyes! Check out @devonholzwarth’s Instagram profile for a peek at some of the incredible illustrations. The illustrator’s “work is inspired by childhood memories growing up in Panama and her collection of vintage children’s books.” I love finding contemporary books with artwork that has a vintage feel! 


When Olive’s classmate asks her which of her 2 dads is her real dad, she is distressed at the prospect of having to choose between Daddy and Papa. She loves them both so much and sees parts of each of them, as well as her “belly mom,” in herself. When her dads pick her up and ask why she is distraught, they have a conversation about all the many different types of families and concludes with, “Love makes a family.” Ages 4-8



A Different Pond

By Bao Phi

Illustrated by Thi Bui 


Author Bao Phi gives us a glimpse into his childhood experience as a refugee from Vietnam in this simple-but-not-so-simple story about a boy going fishing with his father in order to find enough food for the family. Though they go their separate ways during the day, they all come together for dinner and eat the fish caught that morning. The story is a quiet and intimate look at a family in which both parents work multiple jobs to make ends meet and the older siblings help take care of the little boy. Ages 6-8


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