Award-winning journalist Megan Cottrell recommends six children’s books that show engaged fatherhood to the youngest readers
Where is dad in your favorite children’s book?
If it’s like most kids books I’ve seen, dad is nowhere to be found. Or if he does make an appearance, he’s likely leaving for work or taking over mom’s duties, but bungling them quite badly.
We want modern dads to take an active role in their children’s lives, but our books haven’t caught up yet. This week, I’ve been talking with author Janine MacBeth about her book, Oh, Oh Baby Boy, which she wrote to create literature that supports the idea of engaged fatherhood. But MacBeth’s story isn’t the only book out there that shows fathers in an active role. Here are a few more selections that you might want to add to your children’s bookshelf:
The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson
Follow a little girl and her father into the apple orchard in this sweet book that highlights both our connection to food and the earth, but a loving relationship between a parent and child. The strikingly simple illustrations will evoke nostalgia and a craving for some warm apple pie.
In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers by Javaka Steptoe
This book celebrates African American fathers through 13 poems about dads. The striking multi-media artwork brings to life fathers in all kinds of professions and roles, all capable of inspiring awe, wonder and wisdom in their children. A great way to introduce poetry to young children and celebrate the influence of their fathers.
Mr. Seahorse by Eric Carle
Did you know seahorses are the only species where the male gets pregnant and gives birth? In this colorful book, Mr. Seahorse takes on the responsibility of gestating. As he drifts through the sea, he meets several other fish species where the male is typically in charge of carrying. But watch out – one reviewer on Amazon was upset that Mrs. Seahorse isn’t around. “The conspicuous and near-complete absence of mothers gives a perhaps-unintended but harmful message – are they all CEOs in some underwater corporation?” Still, I’d take a risk with this beautifully-illustrated book that features marine biology and fatherhood in one fell swoop.
The Emperor’s Egg by Martin Jenkins
This non-fiction book highlights another active father in the animal world – the Emperor penguin, who keeps his egg warm for two months during the harsh Antarctic winter. Fascinating, fun and a great read for involved dads.
The Father who had 10 Children by Bénédicte Guettier
A book about a single dad? Cue the Full House theme song! The Father who had 10 children tells the story of a dad who makes breakfast, helps his kids get dressed, drives them to school, cooks them dinner, gives them baths and puts them to bed. If the thought of taking care of 10 kids makes you want to lie down and take a nap, you’re not alone. The dad in this book escapes, leaving the children with Grandma so he can get some much-needed rest, but finds that peace and quiet makes him lonely for his brood of little ones.
Daddy Kisses by Anne Gutman
This simple board book for the youngest readers shows animal fathers being affectionate with their children. It may not be a dissection of equality in parenting, but it’s message is clear: fathers are capable of being affectionate, hands on parents whose care is equal to that of moms any day. A great baby shower gift for the engaged dad in your life.
—Check out Megan’s review of Oh, Oh Baby Boy by Janine MacBeth
—Check out the insightful Q&A with Janine MacBeth about engaged fatherhood in children’s books