The best children’s books with dads in them
Kids love books – and dads love reading to them. But, let’s face it, some children’s books can be tiresome, especially after the 1000th reading. With that in mind, we’ve chosen 10 corkers for all ages, from babies right up to hulking great teens. As if that’s not enough, all the books feature great dad characters too.
I Love You Just the Way You Are, by Virginia Miller
Brown bears Bartholomew and George star in this tender tale of unconditional love. Little Ba (whose only spoken word is "Nah") is having a bad day, despite George’s patient efforts to cheer him up. The porridge is too lumpy, his legs too stumpy and stomach too plumpy.
But his long-suffering dad never loses his cool, finally telling him "I love you just the way you are," and sending the baby bear off to bed in a happier mood. It’s a great depiction of patient, cool-headed fathering, while the large typeface, ample white space and the animals’ expressive faces are perfect for the very young.
Buy I Love You Just the Way You Are from Amazon.
Just Like Daddy, by Cecilia Johannson
This charming board book is part of the Touch-and-Match Fun Book series, which teach kids from one-three about young animals. They learn that tigers have stripes and growl. Monkeys are hairy and hang from trees. And zebras have stripes and gallop like horses.
The pages have textured sections, so babies can touch the giraffe’s spots, zebra’s stripes, etc – perfect for those too young to follow the words. And they can see that the baby animals resemble their dads – the giraffe’s long neck, tiger’s fuzzy stripes and hyena’s furry spots make them just like their daddies.
Buy Just Like Daddy from Amazon.
Tell Me One Thing, Dad, by Tom Pow
This warm, gentle story is a celebration of the bond between parents and children throughout the natural world. There’s one thing – a very important thing – that Molly and her Dad know about polar bears living on the Arctic ice, crocodiles with their whip-crack tails and dinosaurs with huge, crushing jaws.
Toddlers and young children will love joining in a bedtime game to see if they can guess what the one thing is. And the rich, soft illustrations will entrance them, and you, as the pages turn.
Buy Tell Me One Thing, Dad from Amazon.
Clever Daddy, by Maddie Stewart
This rhyming picture book is all about the wonder of dads. What do clever dads do? They twirl and chase you, tickle you and carry you around, they build towers and read stories and make you laugh. Toddlers love the story and illustrations and really seem to identify with the characters. The undemanding narrative is easy for even the youngest children to understand, and gently introduces them to words as well as pictures.
The fundamental message of this book is that dads are great – and we certainly won’t argue with that.
Buy Clever Daddy from Amazon.
Gorilla, by Anthony Browne
Reminiscent of The Snowman, this brilliantly inventive picture book won the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Its pint-sized heroine, Hannah, loves gorillas but has never seen one. She asks her dad for a gorilla for her birthday, but is disappointed it’s just a toy one. But then something amazing happens – the toy turns into a real gorilla, who puts on her father’s hat and coat and takes her for a magical visit to the zoo.
The hero here is the (gorilla) father figure more than Hannah’s real dad, but, as in Raymond Briggs’ much-loved tale, he does everything busy dads would like to do if they had the time.
Buy Gorilla from Amazon.
The Emperor’s Egg, by Martin Jenkins
This award-winning natural history book tells the remarkable tale of the male emperor penguin – the only large animal to tough out the bitterly inhospitable Antarctic winter. Once the female lays her egg, the hero penguin dad spends two months standing on the freezing ice, incubating the egg on his feet.
Beautifully illustrated and artfully told, the superb detail and vivid images perfectly capture the Antarctic chill. And the informative text explains the penguins’ lifestyle in an engaging, singsong style. It’s also a nice way to introduce littl'uns to the idea that dads can play very different roles from that of the distant breadwinner. Mostly though, this is one of those books kids demand over and over again – prepare to know it well.
Buy The Emperor's Egg from Amazon.
Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl produces so many brilliant books it’s hard to pick a favourite – but this thrilling father-and-son adventure story is hard to beat. After his mother dies Danny lives with his dad in a gypsy caravan, tending the gas station, messing about in the workshop and flying home-made gas balloons and kites. Danny worships his dad, describing him as "the most marvellous and exciting father any boy ever had".
But when he turns nine Danny discovers his dad’s secret vice – poaching. Soon Danny joins forces with his dad in a cunning plot against the local landowner with a bad attitude. Can they pull it off? Kids of seven and up will be dying to know – while you enjoy the intense and lovingly depicted father-son relationship.
Buy Danny the Champion of the World from Amazon.
Dizzy, by Cathy Cassidy
Dizzy’s hippy mum Storm left when she was small, so she lives with her dad, Pete. Every year, on her birthday, Dizzy gets a present or card from her mum, which is the highlight of her year. But on her 12th birthday, instead of a present Dizzy finds her mum on her doorstep, tanned and skinny in stripy trousers and huge earrings.
Although Dizzy’s in raptures, Pete is furious that his ex has just waltzed back into their lives. And he’s even more furious when Storm snatches Dizzy and whisks her away for a summer on the festival circuit. As well as being skilfully written and a cracking good read, it’s great to see a solid, dependable father doing all the parenting while the mother’s the feckless, irresponsible one. Thought-provoking stuff for preteens.
Buy Dizzy from Amazon.
Black Rabbit Summer, by Kevin Brooks
This dark tale for older teens is set on a sultry midsummer’s day, when Pete Boland drags himself away from his bedroom to spend a wild night with old friends. Pete’s just finished school and is lazing away the long, hot summer. But when an old girlfriend calls to invite him to the fair, he gets drawn into a hellish night that ends with a grisly murder.
As the investigation unfolds Pete’s policeman dad strives to protect his son – the kind of understated hero a teenager needs when they’re in big trouble. The story moves at breakneck pace and is pitched just right for readers of 15 and up. And it’s one of those teen books that’s so good you’ll secretly read it when your kids are done.
Buy Black Rabbit Summer from Amazon.
Ruby Red, by Linzi Glass
Set in South Africa on the eve of the 1976 Soweto uprising, this is the story of 17-year-old Ruby Winters. Growing up in a wealthy Johannesburg neighbourhood, her life is a world away from the poverty-stricken streets of Soweto. But her parents are white liberals fighting the injustices of apartheid rule.
She finds herself alienated from her racist schoolfriends – and when she falls in love with an Afrikaans boy, Ruby outrages her black friends and parents, too. Ruby Red will be thoroughly enjoyable for older teens – and is the perfect way to educate them about South Africa’s brutal history. And, as storms rage around them, Ruby’s father forms the rock-solid heart of her world. Strong, brave and principled, he’s the kind of dad we all aspire to be.
Buy Ruby Red from Amazon.
Take your teen to Penguin’s site to encourage teenagers to read - www.spinebreakers.co.uk
Updated: Oct 2017
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