Caring fathers and devoted dads in picture books - Garry Parsons

No one is perfect at being a parent and nor would we want to be, but fathers in picture books, sometimes  seem to get a raw deal. 

Dads are often depicted as caricatures of dads, preoccupied with tasks in the shed, washing the car or tinkering under the bonnet. Sometimes shown as unkempt or dishevelled, they can appear absent minded, aloof or uncaring, preferring to fix things than parent directly. Sometimes they simply don't make an appearance at all. 

Equally, at the other end of the spectrum, Dads sometimes appear a stretch beyond the parent, as super humans, taking on over exaggerated super hero personas whilst still maintaining a sense that underneath they are buffoons.

So it’s a relief to see Dads being depicted as fathers who care and are parenting from a place of nurture. Dads who occupy an environment that is in or close to the home, where the child protagonists feel they are in safe hands, despite the challenges they face and the reader does too.

Don't Let Go! - Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Just in time for Father's Day, here are few picture books where Dad takes centre stage and gets on with the job of parenting. 

These are fathers who feel fully rounded in their parenting, dads who are gentle and willing to listen and who are keen to impart wisdom to help their children grow, without being over the top superhuman, down trodden or saccharine.

Clare Helen Welsh recommended Eve Coy's 'Looking after William' to me. A revealing tale of home-life told from the perspective of the daughter where the roles are reversed and the little girl takes on the task of parenting her dad, William. 

The reader is witness to a father who is a fully engaged parent, quietly getting on with all the domestic duties required for looking after a young child and enjoying the playful moments too.

Looking After William - Eve Coy

Looking After William - Eve Coy

In Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina and Doug Salt, Lawrence and his Papa go searching in the woods to collect things to show in school. During the story, Papa gently departs his knowledge of the forest and his wisdom of how the world works. In a tense moment when they become separated, Lawrence discovers a forest secret of his own. 

This is a tender story of the bond between father and son where the characters express how they feel and deal with subtle life moments. Beautifully illustrated scenes and characters that capture the tenderness and wild elements of the landscape.

From Lawrence in the Fall by Matthew Farina & Doug Salati

Ask Me by Bernard Weber and illustrated by Suzy Lee is a walk in the country taken by a father and his daughter. The little girl prompts her dad to ask questions so she can express all the things she likes in the world. Dad quietly participates and diligently asks all the questions she wants to answer herself, cleverly printed in different coloured type to distinguish the two voices and wonderfully illustrated.

Ask Me - Bernard Weber - Illustrated by Suzy Lee

Ask Me - Bernard Weber - Illustrated by Suzy Lee

In 'Don’t Let Go!' By Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross, a little girl wants to visit her daddy but to do that she needs his help to learn to ride her bike.  This is a story of an attentive, patient dad, teaching his daughter skills to prepare her for her life ahead through teaching her to ride her bike. As she becomes more confident at riding, it becomes apparent that it is dad who needs some comforting and it is she who is teaching him. Prepare to be moved by this affectionate father and daughter relationship.

Don’t Let Go! By Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross.

What We’ll Build by Oliver Jeffers is a story of a father and daughter setting out plans for their life together, building life skills, imparting knowledge to create memories and a home to keep them safe. A moving story of love and protection.

What We'll Build - Oliver Jeffers

Two picture books to make you laugh - Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig and Knuffle Bunny, a cautionary tale by Mo Willems, both firm favourites in our house and consistently funny. 

It's raining outside so Pete can't go outside to play. Pete's attentive dad decides to make him into a pizza instead and bake him on the sofa. A funny and warm story around the kindness of a tuned-in dad with paired-down but spot-on illustrations.

Pete's a Pizza - William Steig

Dad is competently in charge in Knuffle Bunny, doing some chores and caring for his daughter Trixie at the same time. He's doing a fine job of it until it all goes wrong at the laundromat. No superhero strategies here just human imperfections.

Knuffle Bunny - Mo Willems

So here's to celebrating the fully formed Dad in picture books, all year round! 

Happy Father's Day!


Garry Parsons is an award winning illustrator of children’s books and father to two boys and is the illustrator of My Daddies! By Gareth Peter, a story celebrating fatherhood through adoption.




Post a Comment

* Please Don't Spam Here. All the Comments are Reviewed by Admin.