Father’s Day is coming up next week and I have been brainstorming books that are specifically for dads to share with their kids or that feature a strong father character. And…it’s been surprisingly difficult to come up with good examples. I was reminded of the rule author Sarah Warren taught us on the Lu and Bean Read Podcast episode 3: the Get Rid of the Mom Rule. I guess it applies to dads, too.
But I don’t believe that kids books have to be more fun without the parents, so I’ve compiled a list of some of the best books for dads to share with their kids. I’ll keep adding to the list as we come across new titles.
Books for babies/toddlers
Lu and Bean were too old for this book by the time it came out, but we checked it out of the library because Jimmy Fallon. This book about every new parent’s goal: to make sure your child says your name first. Parenting is supposed to be a competition, right?
I’m throwing in a self-published book by author and illustrator Jeanne Styczinski. This counting book, which we featured a few weeks ago on the blog, teaches the numbers 1-10 all on a journey to learn why the sun shines each day. The beautiful illustrations make the book special and the ending reassures a young child of a father’s love.
School is just letting out for summer right now, but Dad’s First Day is a great story to calm the nerves of kids getting ready to go to preschool or elementary school for the first time in the fall. Oliver and his dad had a great summer, and now it’s time to go to school—but Dad finds out maybe he’s not quite ready for the big change.
Rosie and her dad spend every Saturday working on their dollhouse, until one week Dad’s not there. Rosie learns Dad has been rushed to the hospital and won’t be home for a few days. While he’s away, a mischievous fairy named Thistle moves into the dollhouse and causes quite a commotion. By the time Dad returns home, the fairy is gone and Rosie is left to explain what happened.
Beware! This book is only for dads who have a sense of humor. If you can accept that you are sometimes grouchy, bossy and totally gross, please proceed. The kids in this book decide to replace their totally gross dad with a different kind of animal parent, but their research reveals that maybe a dog, a dung beetle or an octopus wouldn’t be much better.
Father’s Day isn’t a happy time for all kids. Boats for Papa will appeal to families that are missing a father figure. Buckley misses his papa, but each night he sends a boat out on the ocean. If it doesn’t come back, he knows the boat has reached his papa. Buckley’s mama plays a strong role in the storyline and in helping Buckley to manage the grief of losing his father. Warning: it’s a tearjerker.
Middle grade novels
Kwame Alexander’s middle grade novel The Crossover won the Newbery Medal in 2015 and I want to hand a copy to every late-elementary age boy I know. The book’s main character is a star middle school basketball player who is struggling with fears of losing his twin brother to other interests—especially to girls. The story features strong mother and father figures, but the dad plays a particularly important role in how the story unfolds. A great starter books for kids who don’t think they will like to read poetry. (P.S., girls will like it, too.)
Another Newbery Honor book, this book follows its main character through second grade, which his father has dubbed the Year of Billy Miller. The book has a section dedicated to each of his family members and to his teacher, but Billy’s artist dad makes an impression for how he connects with and supports the young boy while dealing with his own struggles with self-doubt.
I guess all of my middle grade recommendations are Newbery medalists or honor books. Kate DiCamillo’s novel Because of Winn-Dixie was honored in 2001. Main character Opal’s dad is less than perfect, but he walks alongside the young girl as she navigates a new town, church and set of oddball relationships (oh and a stray dog) all while dealing with the emotions of being abandoned by her mom. Turns out, her dad is dealing with those emotions, too.