10 Diverse Children’s Books about Dads

Race and racism has been a topic at the forefront of most people’s thoughts recently, especially in the light of the protests following George Floyd’s tragic death. Those of us with children may be trying to figure out a way to talk to our children about race, if we haven’t yet had this conversation. To help, many news outlets and blogs have been publishing lists of children’s book recommendations to help introduce and explain racism and African American history to children.

While we understand and acknowledge the importance of these types of books, we understand that it’s also important to read books about African American children and adults in every day situations, not only in books that specifically discuss race or African American history. It’s important for African American children to see themselves in books outside of anti-racism and African American history books, and it’s important for non-African American children as well. Think: Ezra Keats’ “The Snowy Day,” which features an African American boy and his adventures in the snow.

On that note, our recommendations feature a mix of books specifically geared towards educating children about African American history and racism, and books about every day life. Furthermore, since our work involves supporting dads, almost all of the books below feature African American (or Canadian) dads and their children.

We hope you check out some of these books, and please feel free to pass this list on to anyone who might be interested!

  1. My Daddy, Martin Luther King Jr./ By Martin Luther King III, Illustrated by AG Ford. One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous quotes is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” However, what do we know of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, and what do we know about what Martin Luther King Jr. was like as a father? Martin Luther King III, one of the children mentioned in his dad’s “I Have a Dream” speech, answers these questions in this dad-themed history book.

2. Antiracist Baby / by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. If you want to raise an activist from Day One, we recommend this book! It’s also a great way to introduce anti-racist concepts to your child.

3. Rosa: My First Rosa Parks/ Little People, Big Dreams series/ by Lisabeth Kaiser / illustrated by Marta Antelo. Although this book isn’t dad-themed, it’s also a good way to introduce your child to the history of racism, via one of the most prominent civil rights activists of the 1960s. This book is also a good starting point to discuss race.

4. My Daddy Rules the World / written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. We previously recommended this book in another post, but it bears mentioning again. This book celebrates everyday moments between fathers and their children, from bike-riding to wrestling matches to bedtime snuggles. Each quiet paper-cut illustration is accompanied by a poem. This is a lovely book that will help diversify any child’s bookshelf.

5. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan/ illustrated by Tom Knight. A universal struggle that any parent and child can relate to! This little girl does not want to sleep in her own bed, so, like any smart toddler, she decides to give her dad his own bed: a cot!

6. Jabari Jumps written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall

This one is a favorite at the Rad Dad house! (Although, due to the price of the book, we haven’t included it in our boxes.) Jabari goes to the pool with his dad and little sister. He wants to jump off the high dive, but when his turn comes, he finds every reason to procrastinate. His dad helps him overcome his fears, and Jabari heads for the diving board! As someone who hasn’t been on the high dive since the age of eight, I can say that all of us could use encouragement from a dad like Jabari’s. This book is perfect summertime and Rad Dad read.

7. You See, I See: In the City by Michelle Sinclair Colman/ illustrated by Paul Schmid. This sweet and simple book was included in our February 2020: Explore box. Colman and Schmid take us through a dad and daughter’s day out in the city, exploring it from their different perspectives: “You see big skyscrapers / I see morning papers.” Babies especially will love the minimalist illustrations (ours does!), and the most important message is that, in spite of their differing views, “In all the places that we see / I love you and you love me.”

8. Clean Up, Up, Up! by Ellen Mayer / illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu. Those of you who are familiar with Maria Montessori’s work will enjoy this book, as it’s a realistic book that teaches practical life skills: cleaning up after oneself! We also enjoy it as it features a loving father figure and diverse family in an every day setting. (Spoiler alert: we will probably be including this book in a box later this year!) We also recommend checking out the companion book, A Fish to Feed, featuring the same father-daughter duo.

9. Daddy’s Mini-Me by Arnold Henry/ Illustrated by Ted M. Sandiford. By Instagram Dad sensation Arnold Henry, this is another book that, due to its cost, didn’t make it into our boxes. A proud dad cheers on his son’s developmental milestones as he grows, and showing us how important a dad’s presence is in a child’s life.

10. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley/ illustrated by E.B. Lewis. It’s Miles’ first visit to the barbershop, and he’s scared. However, with gentle encouragement from his dad (and chocolate milk!), Miles is able to overcome his fear and decide on what kind of cut he would like. We love this book for its beautiful, realistic watercolor illustrations and the caring father figure.

11. Honorable mention: Papa, do you love me? by Barbara Joosse/ illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. A follow-up to the best-selling “Mama, do you love me?” this beautifully illustrated book is set in Africa among the Maasai culture.

Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, we hope that it gives you some ideas for diverse dad additions to your children’s bookshelf! Do you have a favorite book featuring a diverse dad that we didn’t mention? Please leave it in the comments below!

More great Dad-themed children’s books

I know it hasn’t been that long since our last post about Dad-themed children’s books, but since then, we took a trip to the library and discovered a whole new treasure trove of Dad-themed children’s books! Many of these were published in the last year, and we couldn’t not share these with you! So, in no particular order, here they are:

it's great being a dad1. It’s Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry.  This book is part of the wave of Dad children’s books that was published earlier this year, and it’s a fun book! It starts out in a magical land of Loch Ness monsters, unicorns, and robots, but when they run into trouble, Dad is there to save the day! This is a perfect read for Halloween but is great anytime of the year. We also love that this book features diverse characters.

Dads first day2. Dad’s First Day, written and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka. Another library find! This is a sweet and humorous story about an at-home dad who’s nervous about his son starting school. Although our son is still quite a ways from kindergarten, we are familiar with the feeling of not being ready for certain milestones. More than that, there aren’t enough books about at-home dads (in fact, this is the only one we can think of), so we love that this book fills an underserved niche.

daddy honk honk3. Daddy Honk Honk!, written and illustrated by Rosalind Bonnet. Aput the fox finds an abandoned goose egg and, when it hatches, tries to look for a new home for the little gosling. Little does he know, though, that the little gosling will start to grow on him and win a place in his heart! I love this book because it tackles the subject of adoption, which is another underserved niche. The illustrations are also adorable.

My Daddy Rules the world  4. My Daddy Rules the World, written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. In a series of quiet paper-cut illustrations, this book celebrates everyday moments between fathers and their children, from bike-riding to wrestling matches to bedtime snuggles. Each illustration is accompanied by a poem. We love the diverse showcase of fathers in the book as well.

 

Little Wolfs first howling

5. Little Wolf’s First Howling, by Laura McGee Kvasnosky and illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee. This is a fun book for Dads and babies to read together! Little Wolf can’t wait to start howling at the full moon, and he and his dad start practicing their howls. We guarantee that reading this out loud will delight any baby old enough to understand. The illustrations are also beautiful: bold outlines with soft, intricate details.

Daddy long legs

6. Daddy Long Legs, by Nadine Brun-Cosme, illustrated by Aurélie Guillerey.  This book is like an opposite “Runaway Bunny.” Matthew’s dad drops him off at school, but Matthew is worried that something might happen to prevent his dad from coming back to pick him up. He poses one hypothetical after another, with his Dad reassuring him after each question that he will be there, by teddy bear, by dragon, and finally by his own long legs himself!
rory the dinosaur7. Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad, by Liz Climo. A gentler “Runaway Bunny”-type tale, Rory the dinosaur goes on a series of adventures around their island, thinking all the while how excited he will be to tell his dad about them! But although Dad is just one step behind him, he’s rad enough to let Rory think that he’s had a fantastic adventure all by himself!

7 Great Dad-themed books for children

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Parents nowadays are strongly encouraged to read to their children, starting from birth. It is also a great way for Dads to bond with their babies. Recent studies even suggest that kids develop better language skills when Dad reads to them. For these reasons and more, we’ve been including Dad-themed books in our boxes. If you are looking for Dad-themed books in your child’s library collection, please read below to see our picks.

Daddy cuddles book

 

  1. Daddy Cuddles (author Anne Gutman, illustrator Georg Hallensleben). Hallensleben’s soft, pastel-like illustrations were what attracted me to this board book. Each page features a dad-and-baby pair from different animal species and how each dad hugs and cuddles with his baby. We included this book in our July “Animal Kingdom” box.

 

My Dad Loves me book2.  My Dad Loves Me! (author and illustrator Marianne Richmond). Similar to Daddy Cuddles, this board book goes through different father-child animal pairs and talks about how each Dad animal cares for his child. I also love the illustrations, especially of the polar bears and the penguins. (Note: astute readers may notice the similarities between the penguins in this book and our logo, but I sketched our logo based on observations of penguins in the wild.) This book was included in our February “Beat the Winter Blues” box.

papa please get the moon

 

3. Papa, please get the moon for me (author and illustrator Eric Carle). Eric Carle of “Very Hungry Caterpillar” fame has also written and illustrated a sweet book about the father-daughter relationship! Monica wants the moon to play with, so her father builds a ladder to reach it – only to find that it’s too heavy! Available in board book and picture book formats.

 

 

Because I'm Your Dad

4. Because I’m Your Dad (author Ahmet Zappa, illustrator Dan Santat). The fun-loving Daddy monster in this board book would let his child have spaghetti for breakfast, French toast for dinner, and rocky road ice cream in the tub! This book is a fun tribute to Dads.

 

Papasaurus

5. Papasaurus (author and illustrator Stephan Lomp). A companion to “Mamasaurus”! Babysaurus loves playing hide-and-seek with Papasaurus, but when it’s Papasaurus’ turn to hide, Babysaurus can’t find him! This picture book is also great for older babies and toddlers who have graduated from board books. We are also huge fans of the illustrations. Look for this book in a future Rad Dad Box!

 

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6. You and Me, Me and You (author and illustrator Miguel Tanco). This book takes us through a father and son’s day in the city, during which they discuss life, and bond with each other. We also love Tanco’s retro-style illustrations. This is also a good book for toddlers and older children.

 

 

my dad used to be so cool

7. My Dad Used to be so Cool (author and illustrator Keith Negley). All dads have probably felt this way at one time or another! A new dad looks back wistfully on his pre-baby days, when he was in a band, rode motorcycles, and got tattoos, and laments about his lack of coolness. But his baby still thinks he’s totally rad!

 

 

Tributes to dads are important not only in helping men feel more confident as fathers, but also in helping children appreciate their dads. If you need more inspiration, The Guardian also has a list of their favorite Dad-themed children’s books!

What are some of your favorite dad-themed books?