50 Books For Young Kids With A Compelling Father Character

PSP members talk about books for young kids with a compelling father character.



Check out our Brooklyn Public Library Book Lists to find these books quickly:

Compelling Father Figures Part 1

Compelling Father Figures Part 2


The Original Poster:

My husband and I have been noticing that in a lot of kids books (all the Olivias, Ladybug Girl, Bernstein Bears, just to take a few of the big ones), the father is either a nonentity or a bit of a buffoon. And books about total love & devotion between a kid and a parent seem mostly to be about mothers. If anyone can think of some interesting exceptions we'd love to hear about them!




1. Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle
““No mom in sight in that one”

2. Mr. Seahorse by Eric Carle
“Really great story about papa fish who are caregivers.”
“Mr. Seahorse takes care of the eggs until they are hatched. Sees lots of other fathers caring for their eggs as he swims along.”

3. Papa, do you love me?
“About a father and son from the Masai tribe with an ending so sweet that I have to try not to cry every time we read it:   "I'll care for you, love you, and teach you. Always. Because I am your papa, and you are my Tender Heart.")
“Also "Papa Do you love me?" comes to mind - like "Mama do you love me?" but with a Dad and instead of an Arctic setting it is set in Africa. Also nice for being a diverse setting but not with animals - all the little kids books set in an African plain or some such seem to be safari animals but not actual people! 

4. You Go On With Your Bad Owling Self

5. Daddy Makes the Best Spaghetti! 
“The dad is silly and punny and affectionate and a good cook and the child's love for him and pleasure in him shines through every page.

6. The Little Bear books
“How about the Little Bear books?  (different from Goodnight Little Bear).
”Father Bear Comes Home by Minarik"
“He's a bit on the reserved side but sweet. I concur that Owl Moon is great (but that dad is reserved too!”

7. We’re Going On A Bear Hunt illustrated by Mem Fox
“A lovely illustrated [book] with a father (solo) taking a big brood of kids on an adventure that ends with them all cuddling (hiding from bear) in bed and my daughter loves it.”

8. Little House on the Prairie
“The Little House series is a love letter from Laura Ingalls Wilder to her father, and the series has so much else to offer besides.  A great American work.”
“What about the Little House books? I haven't read them since I was a kid, but I remember Pa being such an important parent to Laura, even though the parents have very segregated roles.”

9. I Lost My Dad by Taro Gomi 

10. Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang
“Reverse counting book of father putting daughter to bed.”

11. Flower Garden by Eve Bunting 
“Father helps a daughter make a birthday surprise for her mother.”

12. Papa's Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming
“A girl watches as her inventor father tries to make a submarine.”

13. Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson
“About the building's construction and features a father taking his son to the observation deck after it opens.”

14. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
“Two male penguins father a chick.”

15. Bea and Mr. Jones by Amy Schwartz
“Father and daughter are fed up with work and kindergarten respectively so they switch places.”

16. How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz
“A boy's father brings home a map instead of a loaf of bread and the hungry child is initially angry until he realizes that the map enables him to escape from his hunger and poverty.”

17. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Tarpley
“Father takes son to barbershop for first haircut. Very sweet.”

18. All the Astrid Lindgren books
“Are amazing. Unique, funny, sensitive, complex, crazy characters.”
“As for Astrid Lindgren, all her books are awesome, but there's another father-son stand out: Mio, my son.”
“My FAVORITE literary father figure of all time is in a book not well-known in the US, by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (of Pippi Longstocking fame) called Ronya, the Robbers Daughter. If you ever have a chance to see this movie ... it is amazing. A strong, yet emotional father who loves his daughter enough to swallow his pride and ask for her forgiveness. A stronger mother, who lets her girl, the strongest of all of them, go away and come back again. LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!”
“I second Ronya, Robbers Daughter”

19. Annie and Snowball series by Cynthia Rylant
“Early reading level (1st grade about).”
“The Annie and Snowball books that we've read have been good - the dad is a single father and pretty competent and does things like host tea-parties with his daughter; these books are related to the Henry and Mudge books (Annie and Henry are cousins and neighbors) and the dad there is pretty good as well. We haven't read all of them, but the ones I have read show the dad to be on equal footing with the mom - and maybe even more present.”

20. Kisses for Daddy
“A dad (bear) getting his son ready for bed.

21. Querio a me papa pourque
“Is bi-lingual about all the reasons kids love their dads (through animal stand ins).”

22. My Daddy Does This
“is similar with slide out pieces (also animals)”

23. The Jeremy James series
"For the older kid, the Jeremy James series is great and I remember the Dad appearing in this book a lot"

24. Jody's Beans by Malachy Doyle
“Jody's Beans has a grandfather as the central adult character. In the background you see that she is gaining a little sibling, but that is not addressed in the narrative.”

25. The Little Critter Series by Mercer Mayer
"Also, the little Critter series has some books where Dad appears more than Mom, obviously in Just me and my Dad and then in Just go to bed.”
“Other books by Mayer also portray the father and grandparents too as equal parents in the story which I like.
“Where is My Frog. Dad and "Critter"(?) go camping and lose the pet frog.”
“Just Me and My Dad is about relationships with dad.”
“Don't know if this was mentioned but the Lil Critters books by Mercer Mayer has a couple that are really sweet. My husband loved these as a kid and so he got them for our boy.”

26. the Alfie Atkins series by Gunilla Bergstrom
“I can recommend Alfie Atkins, one of the most loved Swedish children's book about a boy and his dad, who is a single parent.

27. One Cool Friend by Tony Buzzeo
[BPL Link]

28. Elephants Don't Sit on Cars by David Henry Wilson

29. Rescue Bots
“If your kid is into robots and the whole Transformer stage (ok, we're not talking Caldecott but hey, we all have our vices lol), Rescue Bots has a single father who has 4 kids as the main characters! No backstory on the mom (yet).”

30. One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
“About a girl named Sal who discovers her first loose tooth, digs clams with her dad and makes a trip with him to mainland.”

31. Papa’s Song by Kate McMullan
“We had a young child's book my daughter loved called "Papa's Song" (we were always looking for "Papa" instead of Daddy books for our household).  No one in the family can get the little bear to sleep until the Papa Bear takes him out on the boat in the bayou and gently rows him into sleep.  I may be misremembering a bit but that is the gist of it. It is also multigenerational.  A very soothing read at night.

32. Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
“For kids a little older. He lives with his totally awesome widowed father who he basically saves but the father is a very smart guy indeed and they cook up a rather fantastic scheme together.”

33. Daddy and Didi on the Promenade by Marilyn Singer and Marie-Louise Gay
”This is kind of an old one, but I love it! Shows only a Dad and young girl and their Sat. morning routine, where they meet up with another Dad and his child. Set on the Brooklyn Heights promenade (just pre 9/11), which is also sweet in a way.”

34. Spot Loves His Daddy by Eric Hill

35. Daddy Kisses

36. Curious George
“I suppose the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George qualifies, right?”

37. Pete's a Pizza by William Steig

38. What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best

39. Ira Sleeps Over (both parents visible, involved)

40. Guess How Much I Love You
“It's for younger audiences, but GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU? w/ the nut brown hares seems to be a daddy character and it's all about loving and attachment. There's a recordable version of that we're thinking to get for when my husband needs to go on a longer business trip coming up.”

41. The Leslie Patricelli books
“Are for the littlest ones have lots of daddies doing huggy/kissy, pushing higher on the swings, generally co-parenting (along with mommies), though admittedly there are some visual gender-stereotyping in these (like baby is tugging mom's skirt while she cooks to find her binky, whereas she questions the dad just standing in the living room when she asks him for it, in the same story. Though the daddy is also is the one cleaning the floor of the bathroom after baby's bath in Tubby…).”

42. The Princess and the Peas by Caryl Hart

43. Goodnight, Little Bear by Richard Scarry
“The ONLY book I've found for younger kids with a supportive and capable father character is Richard Scarry's "Goodnight, Little Bear," about a dad putting his child to bed. I've been looking for others for a few years now and am disappointed that this is the only book I've found”

44. Every Friday by Dan Yacarino

45. What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins

46. That's Papa's Way by Kate Banks

47. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
While recommended, there were a few parents that did NOT recommend this:
“I totally agree that the Knuffle Bunny dad is an idiot, even if he is helping out. He has no idea what the daughter wants until they get home and the mom knows IMMEDIATELY.”
“I haven't read the Knuffle Bunny book, but the I find the way the father is portrayed in the musical to be totally offensive for the exact reasons the OP was looking for books with father characters who are as competent as fathers are in real life. The dad is totally bumbling and the song that he sings about how he'll never understand his daughter (but he really loves her) ticks me off so much.”

48. Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman
“a Grandpa in that case.”

49. Farmer's Market Day by Shanda Trent
“Both parents are equally involved in the trip to the market.”

50. Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
“well, sort of.”