We all have stories about our fathers. Some are warm and fuzzy, some are not. Some dads are “hands on”: playing with their children, making up stories and fun, and being there when needed. Others want to be but for some reason can’t. Others have no clue. Regardless of the kind of dad you have had, we all have stories that are vivid.
There are many famous fathers in history, literature and film. George Washington is said to be the father of America. Christians believe in God the Father and a famous saying quotes “necessity as the father of invention.” The 1950s, ’60s, and 70s brought famous fathers like James “Jim” Anderson, Sr., played by Robert Young in Father Knows Best, Steven “Steve” Douglas, played by Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons, and Michael “Mike” Brady, played by Robert Reed in The Brady Bunch. More recent television history has made (for better or worse) Homer Simpson (the Simpsons) and Al Bundy (Married with Children) household names.
Use these stories as fodder for your students (or yourself) to write. Think about a time when dad (or a father figure) played something fun with you. Think about a time when dad (or a father figure) disciplined you because you did something you knew was wrong. Think about a time when dad (or a father figure) taught something that has stuck with you. How would any of these experiences have been different if it had been someone other than your dad (or father figure)?
Books about dads:
Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Fucile, Candlewick Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-7636-4496-3
Going to bed has never been easier, thanks to the clever antics of 3+ year old Mitchell and his dad. It’s a story that’s fun for any young child interested in cars and driving, or parents trying desperately to find a way to inspire their young ones to go to bed without tears or complaining (or umpteen glasses of unnecessary water!).
The text is simple enough for a new reader to read along and the digitally-created illustrations are engaging and full of expression. “I used to watch my children play remote-control dad at bed time,” the author writes, “but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized my husband was actually a car and my children were driving him.”
A bit of a story with a whole lot of play as Mitchell “drives” his dad around en route to his bedroom. This brightly colored picture book is sure to be a popular bedtime favorite. (from the CLN Books We Recommend column)
What Dads Can’t Do
written by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Doug Cushman, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2000.
In an homage to all the things that fathers, dads, papas, and pops can do, Wood and Cushman team up to create a book that’s ostensibly about the things they can’t do.
Two Old Potatoes and Me
written by John Coy, illustrated by Carolyn Fisher, Lee & Low, 2003, ISBN 978-0-375-82180-6
One day at her dad’s house, a young girl finds two old potatoes in the cupboard. “Gross.” But before she can throw them away, her dad suggests they try to grow new potatoes from the old ones, which have sprouted eyes. Told from May to September, the potato-growing season, the story includes all the basic steps for growing potatoes while subtly dealing with the parents’ recent divorce.
In the Mrs. Madoff book written by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell, Father’s Day, the children in Mrs. Madoff’s classroom create original illustrated books about their fathers and then surprise them with their creations at a Father’s Day party. Many different types of families—and fathers—are reflected here. You’ll want to use this with children in primary grades. It’s a good suggestion for a classroom activity as well as a look at all kinds of fathers.
For older readers, Blind Mountain by Jane Resh Thomas (Clarion, 2006, ISBN 978-0618648726) is a terrific adventure book about a boy who must help his father when the man becomes injured during a hiking trip. How the two rely on each other, how they come to grips with their differences provides as much tension in the story as wondering if they will both survive.
For humor, in a classic book, you can’t beat Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Galbraith, Jr. Set in a time gone by, the father of twelve is an efficiency expert who practices his theories on his children … who obey their father but find plenty of ways to stretch the boundaries. For older readers who like to read about real life, this book is much better than either of the movies that were made from the book, the most recent starring Steve Martin. The original story is truly funny, mostly because we know it really happened!
How about you? What are your favorites books for children and teens that are all about dads?