Fathers and Heroes

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Fathers and Heroes

Great Dads in Children's Literature and Picture Books

One of the most important relationships in a child's life is with their father (or father-figure). In children's books, mothers are often the go-to parental figure, whether it is in the forefront or background of the story. Examples of notable fathers in children's literature can often be overlooked. Despite the generalization, good fathers do exist in books for children of all ages. In this list, new and old stories alike portray those relationships in both humans and animals. While fathers can play many roles in a child's life, they are always important. With this list, fathers of all types are celebrated.

Picture Books: 4 Years Old and Younger

If My Love Were a Fire Truck: A Daddy's Love Song by Luke Reynolds
This beautiful and quite recent picture book has wonderful, vivid illustrations, and sweet, repetitive lyrics that will easily become your child's favorite lullaby. The father in this story compares his love to everything from an elephant to a rocket ship to a marching band. Each page shows the father and son enjoying every adventure together as a team. The words and pictures are equally beautiful and touching. This is a wonderful book for both younger children as a lullaby and an older child who needs reassurance and comfort.

I Love My Daddy Because... by Laurel Porter Gaylord
Available in both picture book and board book forms, this sweet book is great for the youngest children in your family. A simple list of why the different human and animal children love their daddies weaves together a sweet and touching story that many children can relate to. The figure of the father on every page is shown as strong, protective, and loving--showing examples to young children about the role their father plays in their life.

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
With the same beautiful illustrations that are expected in Eric Carle books, this story about male carers in ocean life is a sweet and informative book. Just like Mister Seahorse who carries the eggs and cares for the young, this book shows other male ocean creatures who care for their young. This lovely picture book challenges traditional parental gender roles through a vivid oceanic scene.

Picture Books: Preschool and Up

Home at Last by Vera B. Williams and Christopher Raschka
Home at Last tells a sweet story about the joys and struggles of starting a new family. Lester is finally adopted by Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert but is still nervous that he may have to leave his new forever home. With patience and time, the family comes together and Lester realizes he can always count of both of his dads. This book celebrates great fathers and the importance of love and understanding in any family.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
This classic tale celebrates the simple adventures that a child remembers for a lifetime. When a young girl and her father go "owling" she discovers an appreciation for nature and the importance of listening. This special trip is something her father has prepared her for and her brothers before her. This is a wonderful picture book not only because it shows the bond between father and daughter, but also the care and patience the father has for his daughter. This is a great book to encourage exploring nature and allowing your child to discover new things.

How Many Stars in the Sky? by Lenny Hort
This classic children's book depicts father and son as they spend a special night learning about the stars. When his mother is away, the young boy in the story cannot sleep. It isn't until Daddy goes out with him to count all the stars in the sky, that they both fall asleep under the stars. Both the illustrations and lyrical text lend to this lovely story.

Middle Grade Novels: 2nd Grade Reading Level

Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
Part of Beverly Cleary's classic Ramona series, Ramona and Her Father illustrates the special bond the young girl has with her father. When Ramona's father loses his job, the family goes through hard times. There are special moments between father and daughter while he stays home, but it also is a great example of how much children pay attention to family struggles. Ramona understands the family money problems though she conceptualize her role. Ramona's father is not perfect, but he loves his family and works to provide for them. This is a great book to show it takes the whole family to pull together during tough times.

Middle Grade Novels: 3rd Grade Reading Level

Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl 
Loosely based on his own childhood experiences growing up in the English Country side, Roald Dahl provides and wonderful character in Danny's father. Loving, adventurous, and deeply flawed, William is one of the most relatable and realistic fathers in children's literature. Widowed and raising Danny alone, William also struggles with fitting into small town life. Encouraging his son to poach pheasants doesn't sound like fantastic parenting, but he also encourages Danny's creativity and for his son to dream big. Very different than most of Roald Dahl's work, this novel is a great book to read together that tells the story of a time and place that you can only revisit in books

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Based on her husband's childhood in New York State, Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the story of young Almanzo and his long days on the family farm. Only nine years old, Almanzo has many responsibilities on the farm and can only go to school when all the work is done. This story is very much a product of its time, but Almanzo and his father's relationship is close and loving one. Though childhood and its demands are completely different than today, Almanzo's father teaches him the universal lessons of responsibility, fairness, and hard work. This is a great book for children who have never visited a farm or are curious about life before modern technology. One of the few stand alone books by Wilder, Farmer Boy can be read separately from the Little House series.