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.)

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.)

Hooked (Tommy Greenwald)

Hello friends and Happy Father’s Day! Our review today is Hooked, written by Tommy Greenwald and illustrated by David McPhail, a fishing story of father and son.

To Joe, there’s no better way to spend a day than a fishing trip. He enjoys the peaceful quiet and being alone with his imagination. More than anything, Joe wants his dad to join him, but his dad always says no, protesting that it’s boring (and he doesn’t like worms). So Joe joins the town fishing group instead, and is excited to hear of the upcoming ice fishing trip – until the group leader says that he must be accompanied by an adult. Joe asks his father to join him, who agrees on one condition: he never has to go fishing with Joe again. But when the pair head out to the lake, Joe’s dad may find that fishing isn’t just about what you catch, but who you spend the day with.

I have mixed feelings on this one. On one hand, it ends up being a sweet story, where Joe’s father learns to appreciate fishing as time spent together, and Joe can finally share his hobby. The illustrations are darling, with a nostalgic storybook style. But honestly, I can’t get over what a jerk Joe’s dad at first! Yes, he eventually realizes his error, but the responses he gives to his son wanting to spend time with him – and the way the illustrations show how clearly heartbroken Joe is by them – are upsetting as a parent, and could be upsetting to young readers as well. It’s a judgement call for those who want to share this with their own little bookworms, but it quite frankly turned me off. Otherwise, the length was fine, and JJ enjoyed the illustrations. But overall, this is one we’ll throw back.

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

Dad And The Dinosaur (Gennifer Choldenko)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Dad And The Dinosaur, written by Gennifer Choldenko and illustrated by Dan Santat, a poignant story about fear, courage, and the bond between fathers and sons.

Nicholas is afraid of some things: the dark, the bushes where the big bugs live, the world under the manhole covers, even the opposing soccer team’s big goalie. But Nicholas has a secret to overcoming his fears: his dinosaur. He keeps his dinosaur with him always, in his pockets or tucked in his sock, because the dinosaur is never scared of anything and helps make Nicholas feel brave. That is, until the day that Nick loses his dinosaur on the soccer field and must return home through the scary dark before he is able to find him. Nicholas is too embarrassed to reveal that his dinosaur was the one making him brave, but if he doesn’t tell someone, how will he ever get his dinosaur back? All seems lost… until Nicholas’s dad, Big Nick, is able to find a way to help his son.

This one was really beautiful. There are some wonderful lessons to take away: that it’s okay to feel afraid, and that opening up to your parents when you’re upset, even if you find your problem embarrassing, means that they can often help you and are more than happy to. I didn’t love that Nicholas felt that he couldn’t show weakness to his mother, but it did foster the trusting bond between him and his father, so it’s easy to overlook. Santat’s art is a perfect fit here, mixing the real world with the sublime seamlessly, using color and atmosphere to bring Nicholas’s imagination to life. The length is great, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. A touching story, especially for fathers to share with sons, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Edison’s Tackle Box (Meghan Colvin)

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

Hello, everybody! Today’s book is Edison’s Tackle Box, written by Meghan Colvin and illustrated by Cole Roberts, a sweet story about a boy, his dad, and a very special fishing trip.

Edison loves to fish, so when his dad wakes him and tells him to get his tackle box ready, he knows it’s going to be a great day. However, Edison’s never packed his own tackle box before. What will he need for the perfect day of fishing? He doesn’t want to mess it up by forgetting anything. But after Edison and his dad spend the day together, Edison realizes that the perfect day isn’t made by “whats”, but by “whos” instead.

This was a very cute book, with a simple concept and understated execution. It’s a classic father-son story, but the core lesson, that people are what make a perfect day, is applicable to anyone. The art was lovingly detailed and lively, a very pleasant surprise in a indie book, and does a great job of bringing the reader into Edison’s world. The pacing is a bit slow, but there’s a lot of charm in Edison’s earnest innocence and excitement, which makes up for it. Also, Edison and his dad catch-and-release their fish, which is nice for preventing some awkward conversations with little ones. JJ enjoyed it okay, but this one would be even better for slightly older readers who wouldn’t mind the longer story. Still, a lovely book with a sweet message. Baby Bookworm approved!