These are 20 of our favorite children’s books for Father’s Day! They are silly and serious, tender and fun, and written by diverse authors with representation diverse dads, grandfathers, and families.
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
By Barack Obama
Illustrated by Loren Long
Barack Obama wrote this gorgeous, inspiring book as a letter to his daughters. He tells the girls that they have each of many admirable character traits (brave, strong, kind, inspiring, etc.) and then gives a brief description of a famous person who exemplifies that quality. At the end, he celebrates the diversity of people who make up the USA. This book is so endearing and gives enough information about many different people to spark interest in lengthier biographies. Ages 4-8
By Minh Lê
Illustrated by Dan Santat
What a stunning, unique, and powerful book! With very few words, this tells about a little boy and his grandfather learning to communicate when they don’t speak the same language. Through art, they connect and say the things that could never be said with words. The soul of this book is as beautiful as the artwork. Ages 3-5
By Matthew A. Cherry
Illustrated by Vasti Harrison
If you’ve been following me for a minute, you know that we love books illustrated by Vashti Harrison. This another beauty! Matthew A. Cherry has written a sweet, endearing story about a father helping his daughter with her beautiful, natural hair for the first time. Her hair can do so many things, but she must find the perfect style for a special occasion. Cherry gives us a glimpse into an intimate, warm moment between a father and daughter while celebrating black beauty. At the end, Mommy comes home and the family is happy to be reunited. Beautiful book! Check out the short film that goes with it but grab a Kleenex before you watch the film! Ages 3-5
By Melanie Florence
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
“Will you teach me your words?
His heart danced as he nodded,
holding the book against his chest.”
This is one of the most powerful children’s books I have read! A little girl asks her grandpa how to say “grandfather” in Cree, his native language. Greatly saddened, he explains how his language was stolen from him as a child. At the end, the granddaughter finds a way to get the stolen words back. So much is expressed through simple text… the power of language, culture, and family. I love the introduction to a few words in the Cree language. I was so touched by this story and appreciated the combination of hard truth-telling with inspiration and hope. The author, who is of Cree/Scottish heritage, wanted to honor her own grandfather with a story of how she wishes things could have been between the two of them. Such a special story! Ages 6-9
By Sylvia Liu
Illustrated by Christina Forshay
This is such a fun, playful book about Mei Mei and her grandpa, or Gong Gong. First he teaches her some slow, gentle movements from tai chi, and she puts her own spunky spin on them. Then she teaches him some yoga poses she learned at school. At the end, an author’s note tells more about tai chi and yoga. This is a celebration of the grandfather/granddaughter relationship as well as a light, fun introduction to these two types of movement. This is cute as can be! Ages 4-8
By Arun Ghandi and Bethany Hegedus
Illustrated by Evan Turk
“‘Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.’”
This is such a cool book! Ghandi’s grandson Arun collaborated with the author in the writing of this book about what it was like for Arun to live in Ghandi’s village as a young boy. Arun worries that his emotions are too out of control and will keep him from making his grandfather proud. Ghandi patiently explains that everyone gets angry and that anger is like electricity. It has the power to destroy, like lightening. It can also be channeled into positive action and has the power to illuminate, like a lamp. This is a powerful story about emotions and the choices we make in determining what to do with them. Such a helpful message for children as they learn to navigate big feelings! Ages 4-8
By Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Genevieve Simms
I loved this book! It tells the story of Mayumi, a little girl who goes to Japan to visit her grandfather each summer. When she was born, he made her a garden of stones that they enjoy tending together for many years. When her grandfather must move away, she comes up with a creative idea about how to remember their treasured garden and feel connected to each other. She makes a tiny portable rock garden for her grandfather and another one for herself. I love this story about family, nature, and making memories. Ages 3-7
By Taye Diggs
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
“I love you more than I love dancing….
But I love making up moves and moonwalking with you”
I have never seen a book quite like this one! A father describes how much he misses his son whenever they can’t be together. He expresses his love for his son through recollections of all of their favorite things to do together. This book is tender, simple, and oh-so-endearing. This is a powerful counter-narrative to the media-perpetuated stereotype of absent or uninvolved black fathers. Though all children can enjoy it, it is especially perfect for kids who live separately from a parent or have a parent who is away from home for extended periods of time. Ages 4-8
By Derek Munson
Illustrated by Tara Callahan King
I got to be the “mystery reader” for my daughter’s second grade class. I brought Enemy Pie to read, and the kids loved it! It’s about a boy who doesn’t get along with another little boy and asks his dad what to do about it. His dad pulls out a recipe for enemy pie and proceeds to make it, but there’s a caveat— for the pie to work, the boy has to spend a whole day with his enemy and be nice to him. The two boys end up having fun together and become friends, so the main character panics when his dad brings out the pie. He can only imagine what it will do to his new friend until the boys notice that the dad has already started eating a piece of pie. This is such a great book told from the child’s point of view. The second graders I read to debated whether the pie was magic and didn’t harm anyone because the boys were no longer enemies or the dad tricked them into spending time together. It’s a book about friendship and getting along with others, as well as fatherly advice passed down to his child.
By M. H. Clark
Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper
I am just thrilled to share this one–one of my very favorite picture books! It’s the story of a grandfather and his granddaughter going on a walk, looking for tiny, perfect things: a spider web, a crow, a yellow leaf, a snail, and other simple treasures. In our busy, entertainment-centered culture, this book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a celebration of slowing down, observing and finding joy in the small beauties around us. There’s a quiet intimacy between the grandfather and the little girl, and I love the representation of a multi-racial family. It would be the perfect introduction to a nature studies lesson. Ages 5-8
My Dad’s Jokes Are Very (Terribly, Awfully, Painfully) Bad!
By Jacob Eckeberger
Illustrated by Keith Zarraga
“‘How does Moses make his coffee?’
‘Just run! Leave!’
‘We were too late. I knew it.’”
Who doesn’t love a good, punny dad joke? This brand new book is so much fun for parents and littles, alike. A young son tries to warn readers about his dad’s horrible jokes, but his dad keeps right on telling them, one after another. Can you get to the end of the book without laughing? With rhyming text that will make kids chuckle, this is the perfect book for kids who are just getting to the stage where they love word play. It would make a great Father’s Day gift for dads to enjoy with their kiddos.
By Margaret H. Mason
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
This book is so full of tenderness and meaning. Little Joseph’s grandfather tells about all the things “these hands” used to be able to do, can still do in teaching his grandson, and some of the things “these hands” were not allowed to do when the law upheld discrimination. I love how this book introduces the idea of racism couched in a story about the love and tenderness between a grandfather and grandson. The love serves as a cushion to the hard parts, eliciting empathy infused with hope. Grandfather tells specific ways he was affected by racism based on real-life discriminatory policies that existed at the Detroit Wonder Bread factory in the 1950’s and ‘60s. However, he is not portrayed as a victim of his circumstances; instead, he is an active participant in the fight to make things better so that his grandson can enjoy a more just world. I’m always amazed when one short children’s book can include so many profound themes! This one packs in love, justice, hope, pride, family, and community. We adore this one and hope you will check it out! Ages 4-7
By Joowon Oh
“Thursdays are my favorite days.”
This is just about the sweetest book I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s simple, like many of the best and truest things are. Every morning, Papa wakes up, drinks tea, waters the plants and tidies up before going into town. But on Thursdays, he buys special craft supplies and two orders of his favorite dumplings to go. The anticipation builds until finally his granddaughter arrives. They share a meal and make a kite together, both agreeing that Thursday is their favorite day. I’m not an overly sentimental reader, but this one had me teary. The mutual love and affection is just so touching, and the watercolor with paper collage illustrations are interesting and inviting. We all loved this one! It’s simple enough for the littlest readers, but even my big kid enjoyed it. Ages 3-7
By Jordan Scott
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
“When the words around me are hard to say, I think of the proud river, bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing. And I also think of the calm river behind the rapids where the street is smooth and glistening. This is how my mouth moves. This is how I speak. Even the river stutters. Like I do.”
Based on the author’s own experience, this is a gorgeous book about a little boy who feels frustrated when he can’t get the words out that he wants to say. His dad takes him to a river and tells him that he talks like a river. This becomes a helpful, calming, empowering revelation to the little boy in this beautifully poetic book. As I’ve talked to my daughters about people who have/have had a speech impediment (President Biden and Amanda Gorman), I really appreciated being able to read this with them to give them a window into the experience and build understanding.
By Jessie Sima
I got carried away right along with Harriet in this playful, imaginative book! Harriet loves costumes and wears them every day, year round. She decides to be a penguin for her dress-up birthday party. When she accompanies her dads to the store to pick up items for the party, she wanders off and finds a group of penguins. They lead her on an adventure and she has quite a lot of excitement on her way back to find her dads at the store—she is helped by an iceberg, a parachute, an orca, and some bird friends. This is a magical, whimsical celebration of imagination. Young children will be carried away right along with Harriet and find satisfaction in her return to the safety of her home base. We loved this book! Ages 4-8
By Seamus Kirst; Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth
This beauty is a feast for the eyes! Check out @devonholzwarth’s Instagram profile for a peek at some of the incredible illustrations. The illustrator’s “work is inspired by childhood memories growing up in Panama and her collection of vintage children’s books.” I love finding contemporary books with artwork that has a vintage feel!
When Olive’s classmate asks her which of her 2 dads is her real dad, she is distressed at the prospect of having to choose between Daddy and Papa. She loves them both so much and sees parts of each of them, as well as her “belly mom,” in herself. When her dads pick her up and ask why she is distraught, they have a conversation about all the many different types of families and concludes with, “Love makes a family.” Ages 4-8
By Bao Phi
Illustrated by Thi Bui
Author Bao Phi gives us a glimpse into his childhood experience as a refugee from Vietnam in this simple-but-not-so-simple story about a boy going fishing with his father in order to find enough food for the family. Though they go their separate ways during the day, they all come together for dinner and eat the fish caught that morning. The story is a quiet and intimate look at a family in which both parents work multiple jobs to make ends meet and the older siblings help take care of the little boy. Ages 6-8
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