With Father’s Day around the corner, we picked our 11 favorite children’s books about fathers. Leave your favorites in the comments!
Jen’s Favorite Children’s Books About Fathers
Side by Side by Chris Raschka
This is a gorgeous book that is pretty much MADE for a Father’s Day book list. It’s a celebration of dads and Raschka pairs simple and poetic prose with bold illustrations to show how dads and their kids play different roles and do different things as they play but always together, side by side. Dad and child can be court and jester, mountain and climber, engine and railcar. I love that the book depicts not only the bond between father and child but also the wonder and innocence of pretend play and childhood.
Up Up Up Down by Kimberly Gee
A rare book about a stay-at-home dad. A day with a toddler and all the opposites that this entails is depicted in this warm and funny picture book. You see the dad and toddler eating, getting dressed, playing, going out… basically a ‘day in the life of’ snapshot of a stay-at-home parent with a toddler. It’s probably the most relatable book we have in our collection right now. This book is my life. I love it for showing the humour in the ordinary, everyday and often maddening experiences we face.
The Little Red Racing Car and The Small Silver Speedster by Dwight Knowlton
These are two beautifully created books created by designer and car enthusiast, Dwight Knowlton. He created the first book, The Little Red Racing Car, when his son was born and he looked for a father/son automotive story to share with him. He couldn’t find one, so created his own. The Little Red Racing Car is about a boy making a wonderful discovery in the family’s new own: an old, forgotten, race car in a barn at the back of the property. Together, son and father spend months lovingly restoring this red Maserati. The book has gorgeous and detailed illustrations and a lovely story that will especially appeal to car lovers. The Small Silver Speedster is about a father and daughter who pick up their new Porsche 356 Speedster in New York City, take it on a road trip along Route 66 to LA where they participate in the 1950s California car racing scene. Like the Little Red Racing Car, this beautifully illustrated book captures a close father/daughter relationship and is another great one for dads and kids who love cars.
You’re Missing It! by Brady Smith with Tiffani Thiessen
This is a bit of a cheeky inclusion on this list. It’s not a sweet and sentimental book about the bond between fathers and their children but rather an admonishment or encouragement for parents/adults to look up from their phones and engage with the world around them. In it, a young boy and his dad are going to the park, and the boy keeps pointing out wonderful delights like squirrels and birds and dogs. Dad is engrossed in his phone and the little boy keeps shouting, ‘You’re missing it!’ I loved the vibrant artwork and message of the book: be fully present. I’m adding it here because the relationship portrayed is a boy and his dad, but the message equally applies to any other adult in a child’s life who is perhaps more focused on a screen than the world.
Your Baby’s First Word Will be Dada by Jimmy Fallon
This is a very cute board book that I love for the humour and drawings. Fallon tried very hard to make sure his daughter’s first word was ‘Dada’ and this book contains delightful drawings of farm animals and the noises they make, but many of the animals are also saying ‘dada’ as opposed to, you know, oink and moo. This isn’t really one with much of a plot but it is a great one if your child likes animals and animal noises (as Tilly does) and would also be a cute present for a new dad.
Margaret’s Favorite Children’s Books About Fathers
Daddies and Their Babies (Black And White) by Guido Van Genechten
This is a cute black and white board book for the littlest baby librarians. Each picture shows an animal daddy with their little one: “The frog daddy with his baby frog.” I’ve written before that black and white board books are essential for newborns. Their vision is still mainly unfocused, and black and white colors are easier for them to focus on. For the first 3-5 months or so, Marian adored her black and white books. Now? She doesn’t give them a second glance. But I’m glad we had them in the beginning. This book is perfect for brand new dads.
Daddy, Papa, and Me by Lesléa Newman, Illustrated by Carol Thompson
This book was one of the first board books to feature a gay couple raising a child. In it, a toddler goes about all their normal daily activities — from dress up to night night — with their two dads. It’s a completely normal board book, except it features two dads. It’s really important to have more representation of LGBTQ+ families doing completely normal things. This is a great one for babies and toddlers.
Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney
I’ve already made our love for Anna Dewdney clear. Her Llama Llama books feature Mama Llama only. But Nelly Gnu, Llama Llama’s neighbor, has a daddy that loves to play with her. It’s a really adorable book, with Anna Dewdney’s signature rhythm that mesmerizes Marian. I’m buying this one for Father’s Day. You can buy it as a board book or a picture book.
With My Daddy: A Book of Love and Family (Growing Hearts) by Jo Witek, Illustrated by Christine Roussey
This board book is about how a little girl feels when she’s with her daddy. The art makes this an interesting read, and adds a lot to the story. Each image shows a tiny little girl with her father’s giant hands. We only see the father’s hands or feet in the book. And the pictures show her using her imagination to describe her feelings, which is what I like best. For instance, the feeling of being adventurous looks like jumping into a pool. The feeling of being happy looks like jumping in puddles while her father creates a rainbow with his hands. The feeling of being angry looks like a vortex of a storm. I also love that it shows real toddler feelings. It doesn’t try to hide the temper tantrums and emotional outbursts. It’s a great book for toddlers.
Ask Me by Bernard Waber, Illustrated by Suzy Lee
Marian hasn’t entered the question a minute stage yet, but this book is all about a little girl with a million and one questions, and a father willing to answer. From waking up in the morning to walking in the park to going to bed at night, the girl’s curiosity and joy in life propel her to ask about the world around her. Rather than get irritated, the father simply says, “Ask me,” and answers every time. The illustrations are vibrant and lovely, mixing gray pencil drawings of the people with splashes of color on the trees and ground. And it makes excellent use of the end pages, which I love! There are a few pages of the father and child playing in the leaves that are some of my favorites from any children’s book. This book is great for early elementary aged children and advanced preschoolers.
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by John Schoenherr
This was one of my favorite books growing up and a classic. First published in 1987 and winner of the Caldecott Award, you’ve probably already heard of it. It’s a poem about a little girl who goes owling with her pa late one winter’s night. They see so many wonderful things on their walk through the woods, which finally culminates in finding a great horned owl. The book is as much of an ode to the special relationship we have with nature as it is about fathers. I really love it and recommend it for elementary school readers.
My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads by Hope Anita Smith
I haven’t read this one yet, but it looked too good not to include. It’s a collection of poems all about dads, written and illustrated by a Coretta Scott King award winner, my favorite book award. I’m putting it on hold today!