Would you like to get your hands on some brilliant picture books featuring great fathers?
Here’s a selection to look for in your local bookshop.
- Keys, by Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan (English version, Huia, 2014)
Ngā Kī, by Sacha Cotter, translated by Kawata Teepa, illustrated by Josh Morgan (te reo Māori version, Huia, 2014)
When you’re a little girl who knows her Dad is still out at work in the evening, there’s nothing like hearing the jingle, jangle, jingle of his keys in the door.
Every night when her Dad comes home, she rushes out for a cuddle and then interrogates him on what all his funny-shaped keys open.
Full of delightful, busy illustrations, Keys/Ngā Kī takes us through some of the tall tales Dad spins, like the rusty key that takes him to his pet woolly mammoth, and the curly, curvy key that opens from his work tea-room into a secret chocolate biscuit factory.
But best of all is the simple key that opens the door to their house when he comes home at night.
- The Best Dad in the World by Pat Chapman & illustrated by Cat Chapman (Upstart Press, 2016)
This is a fun book, with a joke on just about every page, as the straight-faced, child’s-eye-view description of why Dad is so wonderful is juxtaposed with the reality of family life.
Every double spread shows a different family grouping – of many different ethnicities – always with just a Dad and his child or children.
- Finding Monkey Moon, by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Kate Wilkinson (Walker Books, 2015)
When Monkey Moon can’t be found at bedtime, Michael’s Dad takes him out into the dark night, back to the park, to find him.
There’s a lovely moment at the end when Michael finds Monkey Moon – phew! – and he takes on the role of Dad, looking after his furry friend.
‘Oh, Monkey Moon,’ he said, ‘There you are.’
He picked him up and hugged him close.
‘Now you don’t have to be frightened anymore.’
Michael swung Monkey Moon high onto his shoulders and said, ‘There you go, young fella.’
- Baby Dance, by Ann Taylor, illustrated by Marjorie van Heerden (Harper Growing Tree, 1998)
In this simple, colourful board book, a daddy sings to his little baby, and dances her around, while Mama sleeps.
Hush little baby, don’t you cry
Hush little baby, Mama’s nearby.
- I Can’t Imagine How That Happened, by Aimee McNaughton, illustrated by Dominique Ford (Scholastic, 2014)
Meg’s Grandpa is a rascally, sneaky prankster. When they go camping together he plays trick after trick on Meg. Little does he realise she is learning his cheeky ways, and soon she will turn the tables on him.
This is a fun story with lots of nice moments. I particularly loved it when Meg sternly corrects Grandpa’s gender-exclusive language.
The facial expressions are particularly well illustrated, catching the faux-innocence of each trickster claiming, hand on heart, ‘I can’t imagine how that happened!’
- The Longest Breakfast, by Jenny Bornholdt, illustrated by Sarah Wilkins (Gecko, 2017)
Malcolm, the father figure of the story, is woken up by the baby saying ‘Toot!’ He’s torn between getting breakfast going and finding whatever tooting toy the baby is after.
One by one, several siblings, friends, and neighbours put in their requests for breakfast items, including Alice:
‘Did someone say doughnuts?’ asked Alice.
‘For breakfast?’ asked Malcolm.
‘Worth a try,’ said Alice.
The kids have a range of skin tones, and there are hints at different family shapes. Malcolm isn’t called ‘Dad’ and there’s no other adult in the scene, and one of the friends is inspired to ask for pudding for breakfast because ‘Lucy does.’ Lucy is ‘my mother’s friend’ who is often there for breakfast, and that’s all that’s said about that.
There are lots of little funny moments in this lovely book, both in the text and the pictures, and a satisfying discovery in the end of what the baby has really been asking for.
- Rasmas, by Elizabeth Pulford, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (English version, Scholastic, 2016)
Ko Rāmā, by Elizabeth Pulford, translated by Ngaere Roberts, illustrated by Jenny Cooper (te reo Māori version, Scholastic, 2016)
This 2017 Storylines Notable Book tells the story of Danny the boy and Rasmas the goat, both of whom have lost their mothers.
At the beginning of the book, Danny and his dad are living with his grandma on her farm. She matches the two motherless boys up and Rasmas and Danny have all sorts of adventures together.
When Dad meets and marries Rona, they move first to the city, while Dad goes away to work, then to their own farm, reunited with Dad and with Rasmas.
Incidentally, Rona is a wholly positive figure in Danny’s life, in this sweet and sad story of new beginnings, so could be a good story for children you know who are in blended families.
- Peek! A Thai Hide-and-Seek, by Minfong Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade (Candlewick, 2004)
A companion to the lovely Hush!, this is a cute rhyming search book, where the father is looking for his little girl – or is she looking for him?
Which animals can help him find her?
Lusciously illustrated, with love and plenty of giggles, this book will engage children as they search each page for the little girl and her umbrella, and hear what noises animals make in Thailand.
- Funniest Dad in the World, by Ed Allen, illustrated by Louis Shea (Scholastic, 2017)
This is a whacky romp of a book, as each animal competes, bragging about how funny their dads are.
It’s an accumulation story (like The House that Jack Built), so by halfway through, we are celebrating a dad so funny that he:
‘tells the funniest jokes,
riding a unicycle,
juggling three pizzas
burping the alphabet,
wearing a wig, standing on one leg, with one hand in the air, blowing the biggest bubble in the whole world – out of his nose’
After a couple of readings, children will be able to recite this along with you and will have fun spotting all the baby animals on each page doing these silly things.
- My Dad Thinks He’s Funny, by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett (Black Dog Books, 2010)
- My Dad Still Thinks He’s Funny, by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett (Black Dog Books, 2015)
Many children from English-speaking homes will recognise these exact Dad-jokes, and probably the eye-rolling puns and silly missing-the-points will resonate with others, too.
‘My Dad thinks he’s funny. Whenever I say, ‘I’m hungry,’ he says, ‘Hello, Hungry, pleased to meet you.’
The collage-style illustrations are full of energy and interest, and the book ends, helpfully, with going to bed and turning out the light. Or rather, turning on the light, because ‘my Dad thinks he’s funny.’
- A Thousand Hugs from Daddy, by Anna Pignataro (Scholastic, 2017)
This sweet and gentle rhyming book follows a polar bear Daddy and his cub, as the youngster lists all the ways Daddy is a safe and strong presence.
‘No matter what the day will bring
together we’ll do everything.
You’ll chase me over clouds of snow
catch me and never let me go.
Even when I hide from you
you’ll find me every time, it’s true.’
The illustrations are pale and snowy, but bring out the kindness and love between the pair nicely.
- Things to Do with Dad, by Sam Zuppardi (Walker Books, 2017)
What a fun book! The nearly wordless pages take us through a day where a father-and-child pair have a list of jobs to get through.
At first, they work in parallel as Dad does necessary jobs and the child plays, but then the child has a great idea, and reframes the jobs so they can combine, for instance, doing the laundry with joining the circus.
The colourful illustrations are exuberant and expressive and provide a platform for chatting the story through with children.
- My Dads, by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Paul Meisel (Walker Books, 2012)
Here’s a fun, matter-of-fact introduction to a little girl’s two Dads.
We gather from the family photos at the beginning that this is also a blended family, but the rest of the story is just depictions of everyday stuff they do together, and the ways the little girl’s dads are similar and different.
- Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems (Walker Books, 2004)
Daddy’s feeling proud of his parenting skills, taking little Trixie to the Laundromat to do the family washing.
But on the way home, Trixie realises something. She doesn’t have words, so she tries to tell Daddy the terrible news every way she can. She goes boneless! She yells! But nothing she can do will make Daddy understand.
When they open the door to their house, both frazzled, Mum says ‘Where’s Knuffle Bunny?’
Dad might have let the side down initially, but he rolls up his sleeves and searches with great persistence until – hooray! – Knuffle Bunny is found in a washing machine.
This is a hilarious book for adults and children, with bright, cartoonish people against a grey photographic background. A classic, for good reason.
What other books featuring great dads do you enjoy reading to children? Let us know in a comment below, or on our Facebook page.
Thalia Kehoe Rowden was a Playcentre kid before attending St John’s Hill Kindergarten in Whanganui, New Zealand. Sometime later, she became a Baptist church minister, then a mother and a writer. She now lives with her husband and two small children in Wellington, New Zealand, and knows more about dinosaurs and astronomy than ever before. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and her parenting, spirituality and social justice website, Sacraparental.