2016 in [Book] Review Award-Winning Books It's Monday What Are You Reading Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Different Facets of Fatherhood in 2016 Picturebooks


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.


There are so many great picturebook titles published in 2016. It’s great going through them and seeing how I could possibly group them together into discernible themes – I apologize, it’s really the geeky researcher in me, more than anything else. This week, I am glad to be sharing four diverse picturebook titles that show different facets of fatherhood that go beyond the traditional depiction of the newspaper-reading or absent-minded fathers.

img_9354Home At Last

Written by: Vera B. Williams Illustrated by: Chris Raschka
Published by: Greenwillow Books, 2016 ISBN: 0061349739 (ISBN13: 9780061349737)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

Lester has been adopted by Daddy Albert and Daddy Rich from the children’s center. It took a long while for the papers to get sorted, but soon enough he was picked up by both fathers and their dog Wincka and welcomed warmly to his new home.


While I found the text to be quite wordy, and occasionally confusing (I had to check back every now and again to confirm who Daddy Rich is compared to Daddy Albert) – this is a lovely story that shows how very gradually trust is built, and how courage can be fortified with a steadfast dog at the end of one’s bed, and sleepy Sundays with pancakes and toast. I also liked how it wasn’t such a huge deal that Lester had two fathers – in fact, it was a non-issue.


The Author’s Note also indicated that this is the very last picturebook to have been created by Vera Williams (of More More More fame) before she passed away on October 16, 2015. Chris Raschka’s small tribute to her at the end of the story is well worth the read that would definitely add a splash of colour and texture to what is already a beautifully told story.

Thunder Boy Jr.img_9367

Written by: Sherman Alexie Illustrated by: Yuyi Morales
Published by: Little Brown and Company, 2016 ISBN: 0316013722 (ISBN13: 9780316013727) Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2016), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor for Picture Book 2016
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

Thunder Boy Smith, Jr. is named after his dad. While he sees the grand nature of his father’s big name, sometimes he imagines being given just a regular name like Sam, maybe.


In fact, the more he thinks about it, the more he is convinced that he hates his name, especially as he is constantly regarded as the diminutive version of the great hulking Big Thunder his father is. While this story can be paired more with Kevin Henkes’ Chrysanthemum or even Recorvitz and Swiatkowska’s My Name Is Yoon – I was especially taken by the relationship between father and son. In fact, the little sister, while not explicitly mentioned in the text, figured prominently in Yuyi Morales’ art which I found to be infinitely fascinating.


While the very essence of the story is young Thunder Boy’s search for the perfect name (I loved Full of Wonder and Can’t Run Fast While Laughing as some of his more stellar choices, not to mention Star Boy), I appreciated how the father was sensitive enough to understand his son’s desire to establish his own identity through a distinct name that he can truly call his own.


More than anything, it was this big-heartedness, thoughtfulness, and caring nature of Big Thunder that struck me the most. What Thunder Boy’s new name is, I shall leave for you to discover. The first time I learned that Sherman Alexie of Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian fame is writing a picturebook, I was over the moon – and after reading this picturebook, I am convinced that it has lived up to its hype. Yuyi Morales’ trademark gorgeous art did it justice as well. Definitely one title you should add to your libraries.

fullsizerender-5Tell Me A Tattoo Story

Written by: Alison McGhee Illustrated by: Eliza Wheeler
Published by: Chronicle Books, 2016 ISBN: 1452119376 (ISBN13: 9781452119373)
Borrowed a copy from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me. 

Fathers have always been portrayed as solid, reliable, executive types with the respectable suit, bringing home the bacon with a “Honey, I’m home” at the end of the day. Very seldom does theIMG_6578 young reader see a different portrayal of fathers as cool or tattooed such as the one seen in the book cover here. It also reminded me of Daniel Nesquens and Magicomora’s My Tattooed Dad which we have featured here a few years back.


Similar to the storyline in My Tattooed Dad, Wheeler’s lovely story shows a young boy fascinated with his father’s tattoos because each one tells a special tale. There is one that depicts a story his own mother used to read to him as a child, while there is another tattoo that serves as a reminder of his own father’s maxim about being kind to every person he meets.


I also liked how the illustrations indicate the father doing household chores such as washing the dishes. That was not lost on me. Without really saying it in words, this picturebook challenges the way people usually regard stereotypical male-female roles in the household that I honestly feel is a long time coming.


While the mother is clearly present here, she takes a minor role and portrayed as the love of the father’s life – unabashedly! Often, parents are seen as sexless, joyless individuals saddled with the burden of parenthood. Rarely are they portrayed as a romantic, loving couple who have decided to build a family. I am glad that is slowly changing as well. Truly a sweet, aaaw-inducing kind of picturebook that depicts the different types of fathers that are out there in the world.

img_9373My Dad Used To Be So Cool

Written and Illustrated by: Keith Negley
Published by: Flying Eye Books, 2016 ISBN: 190926394X (ISBN13: 9781909263949)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

Once again I saved the best for last. Flying Eye Books just publishes the most beautiful picturebooks. I don’t know what it is about this story that simply spoke to me, but it did – volumes. Perhaps it’s because my own husband has a somewhat similar tattoo on his right arm (husband’s is a skull inside a tribal sun) – but I think it’s really more how pleased I am that we now have picturebooks like these. Just look at those endpapers.


Told from a young boy’s perspective, he shares his observations about his father whom he introduces to the reader. While his father does the usual fatherly stuff (folding his clothes in a hamper – again! a father who does housework!) he is convinced that he must have been cool once, at one point in his life.


Unlike in Tell Me A Tattoo Story whereby the child clearly belongs to an intact family, this one is a little more ambiguous. No presence of a mother that can be detected anywhere – she was never mentioned, although there is a distant picture of a blond woman in a picture frame with the father, ostensibly, but that had no clear image.


Anyway, our young protagonist is convinced that at one point his father used to be cool – and he has evidence to that regard – an old, rusty motorcycle that is for sale (they have a respectable mini-van/jeep now), not to mention the drum set that is tucked away in a closet.


All these things make the young boy wonder what made his father give everything up – all these clear-cut signs of coolness he could detect like a distant, lingering scent in the air? Then the reader is treated to a full-page spread of the devoted father spending such joyful time with the young boy, and my heart simply melted right off my chest.


In the Author’s bio, Negley is described to have “a penchant for emotionally driven illustration.” I could not imagine a more apt description. If you have not seen this picturebook yet, find it, and get your young readers to read it, stat.

15 comments on “[Monday Reading] Different Facets of Fatherhood in 2016 Picturebooks

  1. YES! I’m so thrilled to find picture books that celebrate fathers and fatherhood. Picture books have traditionally been all about mothers, and fathers have sadly been secondary characters. Loving fathers come in all sorts of different styles, and it’s so wonderful to see some of these dads finally getting the love they deserve!


  2. Picture books reflect the world around them– I’m not surprised that we are seeing more about fathers being involved, although I am not a fan of tattoos! I had a couple of cousins who had them back in the 1970s when it was NOT the sort of thing that nice girls had! Hard to overcome that early training.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Billbrarian

    I loved Thunder Boy. That is a great story. I’m not really familiar with the others so I will have to check into them for our library. Thanks for sharing these!


  4. I read Home at Last this week too and had one big problem with it. I also thought it was WAY too wordy. I was trying to get to that in my mini-review, but I decided I’d already written way too much myself, LOL. I must get my hands on My Dad Used to Be Cool. I’m also loving books by Flying Eye.


  5. I’m glad you found a way to share a “group” and these all look wonderful. I liked Thunder Boy, but haven’t read the others, yet! Thanks, Myra.


  6. Oh such fabulous books Myra. I love these last two especially. Although neither of my sons has tattoos, they are soon to become fathers for the first time. I grew up in a household with a stay at home dad who used a wheelchair. (a very very very long time ago) So I guess my perspective of fathers has mostly been that they do housework and are engaged with their children on a daily intimate way. I’m glad more children are getting these kinds of relationships.


  7. Love, love, love this topic and the great diversity of books you picked for it!


  8. Enjoyed all of these titles about Dads. So interesting!


  9. Loved the theme and many great titles. I agreed with everything you wrote about Thunder Boy Jr., and I will have to check out My Dad Used to be Cool. Thanks for the great post!


  10. Nicole Levesque

    While reading the initial bit about Home At Last I was intrigued, but then I saw the amount of text…I don’t know why I immediately thought it looked too long…maybe because it will only work as a read aloud. Not many picture book reading kids will grab a book that lengthy. Also, thank you for reminding me about Tell Me a Tattoo Story!

    If you can’t get Cloud and Wallfish let me know and I will send you my ARC. 🙂


  11. Fun! I haven’t read My Dad Used to be Cool, but I’ll look for it! 🙂


  12. Home At Last looks like a great picture book. And I love Tell Me a Tattoo Story!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you so much for highlighting fathers as parents! it is so important for both parents to be shown in picture books!

    Happy reading this week 🙂


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