My Dad is a Grizzly Bear (Swapna Haddow)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Dad is a Grizzly Bear, written by Swapna Haddow and illustrated by Dapo Adeola, a fun look at a father with distinctly ursine qualities.

Be cautious, be careful, and be aware; the unnamed narrator of this silly tale has a hulking grizzly bear for a father! Fuzzy fur on his face, enormous paws, and a love of honey – yup, all pretty bearlike! He also falls asleep anywhere, then growls and grunts when he wakes, hunting for food. He also LOVES the outdoors, taking his kiddos camping and hiking, even though it’s soggy or rainy sometimes. But when the narrator is scared, there is no one who gives better bear hugs.

Sweet and silly. Haddow’s conversational text exploring the many bear-reminiscent qualities of the narrator’s father will definitely inspire some giggles in young readers, especially for those who have parents of their own that share said habits. For those reading aloud, there’s a strange rhythm on the first page that suggests the book’s text will be rhyming – it’s not – and it may cause a stumble on the first read, but the story itself is fun and warm (possibly with the exception of the narrator’s mother terrifying her children with stories of bears on a camping trip). The illustrations are equally amusing, depicting the characters’ mixed-race family with humor and affection. My only other complaint is equally small as the previous two, but there is something about the pale flesh-colored patches around the father’s eyes when he is depicted as a bear that just… weirded me out. But that could absolutely be a hangup unique to me – JJ loved the artwork and story, and the length was perfect for a storytime. Overall, an entertaining read to celebrate papa bears, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

My Dad, My Rock (Victor D.O. Santos)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Dad, My Rock, written by Victor D.O. Santos and illustrated by Anna Forlati, a very tender ode to the relationship between father and son.

When Oliver (identified by name on the back cover but not within the story) innocently asks his father why his grandpa “disappeared,” it sparks a meditation on the close relationship the boy shares with his own father. His dad is protective, encouraging, and kind. He comforts Oliver when he’s scared, teaching him to manage his anger yet express his feelings (“I think men who don’t cry aren’t real”). He’s never afraid to be goofy or give hugs. And when Oliver grows up to be a daddy, he hopes to be just like him – if only with a little more hair.

Phenomenal. On the surface, this is simply a classic story about the love between fathers and sons, with a surprising non-traditional twist (context suggests that Oliver’s grandfather abandoned Oliver’s dad before his dad was born). Yet the qualities that Oliver chooses to celebrate in his dad also tell a story of anti-toxic masculinity; of a man raising his son to express love and sadness, temper aggression, and not let the opinions of others define his identity (a telling scene in which Oliver’s dad does a silly dance while a stranger gives him a frowning look exhibits this beautifully). It’s subtle and meaningful, and beautifully written and illustrated with warmth and simplicity. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I really loved this one. A fantastic celebration of fatherhood, and we highly recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

You Be Daddy (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Be Daddy, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Steph Lew, a natural companion title to Clark’s previous book, You Be Mommy.

As with You Be Mommy, a tired parent – a father this time – jokingly mentions how exhausted he is, and makes a request of his youngest child: “Can you be Daddy?”. Gamely, his young song runs his father a bubble bath (with fun bath toys, of course), then builds a bedtime fort for two. As the two prepare for “Daddy’s” bedtime, Dad recounts the busy, taxing day he had: crazy traffic, cooking, cleaning up messes, paying bills, and making time for play. His youngest son is happy to make sure he is tucked in with a cuddly stuffie and a warm nightlight, taking care of dad just the way that dad takes care of him… until the little boy needs to put into his own bed, of course. Then Dad does what dads do, and finds the energy to make sure his kiddo is taken care of.

Very sweet. As with You Be Mommy, the concept of switching the parent-child roles during bedtime is done with humor and affection, creating a playful moments between a fictional father and child that readers can identify with. It also gives young readers a glimpse into all that parents do for their kids during the day, creating empathy for when their own parents might be a little worn out before bedtime. Lew’s illustrations are lovely, giving warmth and charm to the characters with details like the son’s clear love of dinosaurs, as well as visual representations of the family’s Chinese heritage within their home. There are also clues within the artwork that, unlike You Be Mommy, this is a two-parent household; this doesn’t detract from the quality of the story, but does feel like a missed opportunity to represent single fathers, who are a marginalized demographic in kidlit. Otherwise, the length is perfect for a bedtime book, and JJ loved the artwork and gentle story. This would make a great read for any father and child to share, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Dad: The Man, The Myth, The Legend (Mifflin Lowe)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dad: The Man, The Myth, The Legend, written by Mifflin Lowe and illustrated by Dani Torrent, a fun tribute to the unique awesomeness of dads.

A young bespectacled boy welcomes the reader by proudly presenting the one, the only – his Dad! A man of practically supernatural strength, genius intellect, the courage of a lion and a heart of pure gold. He does all manner of incredible things; for instance last week, when he saved the boy from the attack of a massive jungle python (afterwards necessitating the purchase of a new garden hose). He makes the boy’s favorite dinner: spaghetti with M&M’s, chocolate sauce and potato chips (Mom’s on standby with the takeout menu, no reason why). He can even FLY (sure, technically on a trampoline… that he technically broke during his landing). But perhaps best of all, he’s supportive, encouraging, nurturing, and an all-around great dad – and truly, that’s all he needs to be a hero in his son’s eyes.

Very sweet. Beginning with a comedically grandiose version of “superhero” dad, this sweet tale unfolds with humor and fondness, gradually moving past the more er, exaggerated escapades of Dad to the simple and sweet things that show his devotion to his family (a personal favorite was a scene in which the son, devastated by an embarrassingly bad haircut, is cheered up by his father proudly getting a matching one). There are plenty of nudges and winks to adults that make this a great tale for old and young bookworms to share, and the charming mid-century-inspired art is packed with personality. The length was fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed the family’s antics. A delightful ode to an everyday superhero, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Three Squeezes (Jason Pratt)

Hello, friends! We’re back after our move to share a beautiful tale with you. Our book today is Three Squeezes, written by Jason Pratt and illustrated by Chris Sheban, a touching ode to the love between a father and child.

As a baby naps on a blanket in the grass, his father gently takes his hand and gives it three soft squeezes. This becomes a ritual between dad and his boy as the baby grows into a toddler, then a child, then a teen, and eventually a man with a family of his own. Offering comfort through nightmares, broken bones, little league losses, and the death of his faithful dog, these three squeezes – in the form of a hand held or a close embrace – become a secret language between the two, until the dad has become elderly and immobile. And on the final page, as their relationship has come full circle, the meaning of the three squeezes is translated for the reader as well: “I love you.”

A treasure. This gorgeously written and illustrated tale is as warm and comforting as a parent’s loving hug. The gently flowing rhymes are simple and earnest, yet manage to weave in some beautiful symbolism about the cycle of life, from infancy to old age, and how the bonds we make with our loved ones fill it. The art is soft and delicate yet carries equal depth, such as the juxtaposition between a child’s first steps and their graduation walk, or the subtle foreshadowing of the frailty of one’s later years. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A perfectly heartwarming tale of fatherly love that just may bring a tear to your eye, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)