Growing Reader

8 Sweet Picture Books That Celebrate Fatherhood

by Liz Lesnick

I don’t know about you, but finding the right present for the dads in my life has always been a challenge. In the age of business casual, I can’t possibly give that old go-to gift, the tie. What I can always count on to be a thoughtful, personal gift is a great book.

This year I have picture books on my mind because my brother-in-law will be celebrating his very first Father’s Day. I can’t wait to see pictures of him curled up with my niece reading one of these soon-to-be classics.

  • Beard Boy

    by John Flannery, illustrated by Steven Weinberg

    I was captivated by Beard Boy from the minute I saw the cover. Steven Weinberg’s lively illustrations capture the energy and impatience of Ben, who desperately wants a beard just like the men in his funky, cool neighborhood. When his dad tells him he’ll have to wait until he’s 25(!), Ben decides to take matters into his own hands. If you have a hipster dad in your life, you can’t go wrong with Beard Boy.

  • Dad School

    by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Priscilla Burris

    A little boy wonders how dads know how to do so many amazing things like fix a leaky faucet, make mega-sandwiches, or simultaneously pay bills and play Go Fish. He imagines they must go to school just like he does. Kids and dads alike will love the vivid images that show the myriad skills that dads must master to do their jobs.

  • Thunder Boy Jr.

    by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

    Sherman Alexie, author of the YA classic The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, makes his picture book debut with Thunder Boy Jr. Thunder Boy Jr. has a dilemma: He loves his father, but he doesn’t love being named after him. He wants a name that reflects who he is and what he loves — like “Mud In His Ears,” since he loves playing in dirt. Yuyi Morales’s bold, bright illustrations capture Thunder Boy Jr.’s enthusiasm as he tries out his possible new names. Luckily, Thunder Boy Jr.’s father comes up with a new name that both embodies his son’s individuality and connects them together. (Fun fact: Alexie speaks from experience — he himself was born as a "Jr."!)

  • Gator Dad

    by Brian Lies

    Meet Gator Dad, the most energetic, warm, and huggable reptile in children’s literature. Readers young and old will love spending an action-packed day with Gator Dad and his brood as they do chores, run errands, play in the park, and snuggle up for a bedtime story. While it isn't ever said outright, based on the story and the pictures, I'd guess that Gator Dad is a single parent — a nice touch that makes this a perfect present for all of the Gator Dads out there.

  • Beard in a Box

    by Bill Cotter

    In case you haven’t noticed, beards are booming. In Beard in a Box, a young boy wants nothing more than to be like his dad. When he sees an ad for a Beard in a Box kit, he orders it immediately. I especially enjoyed the illustration for “Step 1: Choose Your Style,” which features 16 options including “the King Tut” and “the Beatnik.” Although the boy doesn’t get the results he expected, his dad comes through in a lovely twist.

  • How to Cheer Up Dad

    by Fred Koehler

    Jumbo’s dad is having a bad day, so Jumbo decides to cheer him up. In this charming tale of role reversal, a little elephant comes up with lots of activities that he hopes will lift his dad’s spirits. Jumbo plays catch with him, takes him fishing, and tucks him in at night. With its sweet story and irresistible elephants, I have a hunch that How to Cheer Up Dad will become a bedtime classic in many houses.

  • Leo Can Swim

    by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ruth Hearson

    Leo Can Swim is the perfect gift from the littlest swimmers to their dads. Readers follow Leo and his dad as they get ready for swim class, from putting on swim diapers and getting in the pool, to drying off and having a snack. With its gentle tone and sweet pictures, this small read will soothe the fears of anxious beginning swimmers (and their dads!).

  • A Perfect Father’s Day

    by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Susan Meddaugh

    Susie is determined to give her dad the perfect Father’s Day. Luckily, she and her dad like a lot of the same things including fast food, monkey bars, and red balloons … or so little Susie thinks. Susan Meddaugh’s spritely illustrations capture Susie’s exuberance and her dad’s patience (and his simmering suffering). And they really do have the perfect Father’s Day — after all, it ends with homemade chocolate cake!

What are your favorite picture books featuring great dads? Let us know in the comments section below!