SALT LAKE CITY — For years, it was Mother's Day that got all of the picture book love, but publishers have realized that dads also deserve beautifully illustrated books that celebrate their roles and relationships with their children. We've rounded up six of our favorites from 2018, from the silly to the tender. Happy Father's Day!
"PET DAD," by Elanna Allen, Dial Books, 32 pages (ages 3 and up)
Illustrator and writer Elanna Allen's "Pet Dad" is a sly book of manners, as young Plum (a darling illustration with big brown eyes and an impish smile) tries to "train" her new pet dad. Come to find out, dads don't train all that easily, especially without those magic words and a few hugs thrown in for good behavior. Kids will love the images of Plum dragging her pet dad all over the park, and parents will appreciate that once Plum learns a few manners, she and her pet "enjoy many years of friendship and love."
"I LOVE YOU DAD WITH THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR," by Eric Carle, Grosset & Dunlap, 32 pages (3-5 years)
Fans of Eric Carle's hungry caterpillar and beautiful collage illustrations will rejoice in his new dad-themed book. It reads like a Father's Day card that an artistically minded child might write to her father, telling him that he is easy to talk to and that although he can be silly, he is still cool. Carle put his trademark hungry caterpillar on each page, which will give little eyes something to hunt for, and the book's small size makes this just right for little fingers.
"DADDIES DO," by Lezlie Evans, illustrated by Elisa Ferro, Sterling Children's Books, 32 pages (3 and up)
This sweet rhyming book by Lezlie Evans is about many of the fun things that "daddies do," accompanied by Elisa Ferro's bright, whimsical illustrations of hedge hogs wearing ties, an octopus and an owl in top hats and penguins in scarves. It's hard not to smile at lines like, "Who takes you on outings and simply won't care if you've picked your own outfit or have messy hair?" The repetitive "Daddies do. That's who!" provides the rhythmic beat that makes this an especially fun book to read aloud.
"DAD BY MY SIDE," by Soosh, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 40 pages (ages and 3 up)
The charm of illustrator and author Soosh's book "Dad By My Side" is in the wonderful visuals of a big, bearded, loving dad with long curls playing puppets, sewing and simply enjoying time with his young daughter. Narrated by the dark-haired little girl, parents might grow misty over pages that read, "It doesn't matter what we're doing, as long as we're together," accompanied by the Soosh's lovely watercolor of the burley dad laying on his stomach to read the paper while his daughter plays dolls on his back. This is the perfect Father's Day book for a young family looking for a picture book that shows the gentle side of fatherhood.
"DAD CAN DO ANYTHING," by Martin Thomas, illustrated by Ag Jatkowska, Sky Pony Press, 18 pages (ages 1 and up)
There's a good chance this bright, beautifully illustrated book written by Martin Thomas with illustrations by Ag Jatkowska will bring a tear to a parent's eye thinking about their small child getting big enough to do things without them. Told through sweet-faced elephants — in scarves and jackets, no less — the little elephant shares many of the things he can't do for himself that his dad does for him. The part that might make parents get weepy? When the little elephant says, "I can now reach anything, new worlds to view, what my dad can do now I can too."
"WITH MY DADDY: A Book of Love and Family," by Jo Witek, illustrated by Christine Roussey, Harry N. Abrams, 34 pages (ages 2 and up)
A little girl with freckles and a red bow shares in this appealing book how she feels when she's with her dad. With her dad, she feels daring, brave, adventurous, confident and most importantly, loved. Christine Roussey makes good use of the white space in this oversized book, the bright colors of her simple drawings popping off the page. The dad of the story is represented by big hands, playing with the narrator or tucking her into bed at the end of the book. Jo Witek's words feel surprisingly poignant, especially when the little narrator says, "Sometimes when I am with my dad, I feel angry. My heart rumbles like thunder and I roll on the ground. The anger builds and builds until it overflows. … Dad wraps his arms around me tight and says, 'Stop. That's enough.'"