The Fix-It man, by Dimity Powell & Nicky Johnston

My dad can fix anything.
It’s what dad’s do.

Dad can fix anything. He’s handy with a hammer and nails, sticky tape and glue and even with making peach tea and cupcakes. But when mum dies, Dad and daughter find that sticky tape and super glue are not enough – they need a special kind of fix-it, in the form of love.

The Fix-It man is a heart warming story of the bond between a father and young daughter, exploring the impact of the loss of a parent in a gentle manner. It is dad who keeps the house running while Mum is sick, with gentle humour and persistence, but it is the daughter who, in the midst of her own grief, reaches out to Dad. Together they start to put their lives back together, surrounded with gentle reminders of Mum.

This is a difficult topic for a children’s book – which is why it is so important. Powell’s text gives just enough detail, without over explaining or analysing what is happening, and Johnston’s illustrations are gently whimsical. A grey scale illustration at the darkest point of the book is particularly poignant, with no need for text to show how the pair cope with their loss.

A wonderful book for exploring themes of bereavement.

The Fix-It man, by Dimity Powell & Nicky Johnston
EK Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925335347

My Dad is a Giraffe, by Stephen Michael King

My dad is big and tall
gentle and fun.
My dad is a giraffe!

When your dad is a giraffe, you can climb up his legs, slide down his neck and ride on his back. He can see a long way, and do amazing things. In My Dad is a Giraffe, Dad is depicted as a giraffe, with the human child loving what Dad can do – and the opening and closing illustrations cleverly showing that Dad is not really a giraffe, but that his imaginative child sees his height and cleverness as giraffe-like.

The text is simple, and a perfect complement to the whimsical illustrations which show what a giraffe-dad can get up to, as well as showing Mum as a zebra. Youngsters will love exploring the detail of these illustrations, as well as the message of love and connection between the father and child.

Filled with the gentle, imaginative fun that Stephen Michael King is known for, My Dad is a Giraffe is wonderful.

My Dad is a Giraffe, by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743625941

Ride, Ricardo, Ride! by Phil Cummings & Shane Devries

Ricardo laughed.
The breeze brushed his face
and the air smelled of wildflowers.
Ricardo rode every day …
Until the shadows came.

When his father gives him a bike, Ricardo loves to ride it, hearing his father say ‘Ride, Ricardo, ride.”. But, when the shadows come, his father tells him they must hide the bike so it is not taken away. Together, father and son dismantle the bike and hide it away. In the dark times that follow, Ricardo loses his father to the shadows, and there are many hardships. But, when at last the shadows go away, he finds his bike, rebuilds it just as his father would have done, and rides once more, hearing the echo of his father’s voice encouraging him to ride.

Ride, Ricardo, Ride! is a moving tale of wartime hardships and survival, as well as of love between father and child. Set in an unnamed village impacted first by the arrival of soldiers, who appear only as shadows and then by the destruction of war.

A highlight of this very moving offering is the way that both text and illustrations explore the impact of war without using the images or words so often encountered in such stories, with the result of drawing the reader in to the impacts of what is happening, rather than focussing on the violence itself. The digital illustrations have a rich depth with smaller, ink-style illustrations in many of the text-boxes adding to the historical feel of the book.

This is a rich, moving feast of a book.

Ride, Ricardo, Ride!, by Phil Cummings & Shane Devries
Omnibus, 2015
ISBN 9781742990736

Available from good bookstores and online.

My Dinosaur Dad by Ruth Paul

This dad is TALL,

this dad is SQUAT.

This dad is HUGE,

This dad is NOT.

This dad is TALL,

this dad is SQUAT.

This dad is HUGE,

This dad is NOT.

‘My Dinosaur Dad’ introduces a range of dinosaur dads, describing both their physical attributes and also their behaviours. The narrator’s dad is the final dad to appear and his arrival sends most of the others packing. But despite his reputation and apparent behaviour, to the young dinosaur, this is merely Dad. ‘My Dinosaur Dad’ is a large format, heavy paper, paper back, suitable for very young children. Images are simple and clear although there are also other animals flitting about each opening. Some of these other animals are there to provide scale and interest. Foliage is often stylised but provides an introduction to ancient flora. Dinosaurs appear in a wide range of gentle colours and patterns.

My Dinosaur Dad is a perfect introduction to dinosaurs, so beloved of young children. But rather than offer too much information, it presents them as loving and attentive fathers. There are dinosaur fathers of all shapes and sizes, likes and behaviours. Most readers will recognise aspects of their fathers in these pages. Ruth Paul has had fun with her patterning and colouring of the dinosaurs. In addition to introducing dinosaurs, ‘My Dinosaur Dad’ offers opposites (tall/squat, chunky/thinner) and words (spiky/prickly, knobbly/tickly) that are fun to say and explore. There are plenty of extra details for young readers to enjoy, including young dinosaurs mimicking their fathers with varying degrees of success. Ideal for pre-schoolers.

My Dinosaur Dad, Ruth Paul Scholastic NZ 2013 ISBN: 9781775431749

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Dads: A Field Guide, by Justin Ractliffe & Cathie Glassby

There are all kinds of dads…

This handy field guide explores the many different types of dad – from big dads to little dads, smart dads to scruffy dads and nerdy dads to rock n roll dads. But of course the best kind of dad is ‘my’ dad.

This simple picture book explores the great variation there is amongst dads, with the diversity offering humour and interest. The field guide is presented by a bespectacled, lab-coat wearing youngster and his side-kick fluffy dog – with the final page showing his dad in a similar lab-coat and glasses, and an older dog, too, which is a cute touch.

A lovely celebration of dads.

Dads: A Field Guide

Dads: A Field Guide, by Justin Ractliffe & Cathie Glassby
Random House, 2012
ISBN 978174275549

Available from good bookstores or online.

My Aussie Dad, by Yvonne Morrison & Gus Gordon

Dads come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. In My Aussie Dada range of children present their dads and the wonderful things they do. Each dad is presented as being wonderful, even when their skills are shown as being less than perfect. For example the barbecuing dad sometimes grills the snags just a fraction more than he should. The language is rhythmical and rhyming and includes a range of Aussie slang. Illustrations on the left of each opening show Dad and the skill that makes him wonderful, while the other side reflects the somewhat less shiny reality. Illustrations are a mix of loose watercolour, collage and pencil. Images on the left are set in lots of white space, while those on the left spread colour over the page. The closing image is of a smiling father and child.

My Aussie Dad pays homage to a range of fathers, the majority of them iconic ‘Aussies’. The text is simple and humorous and the illustrations extend on the humour by depicting the Dads in a variety of activities. Throughout disasters large and small and behaviours appropriate and not, the dads are unfailingly presented as relaxed and caring. They all depict warm relationships with the child who is speaking about them, even if it’s to share an unidentifiable invention/creation, or to share a burnt snag. There’s even a place on the endpapers for the inclusion of a photo of Dad. Endpapers include many essentials for the everyday (summer) dad: big hat, footy, fly swat, hot sun and more! Recommended for preschool and early primary readers.

My Aussie Dad

My Aussie Dad, Yvonne Morrison, Gus Gordon
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741692280

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews

Papa's Little Penguin, by Anna Pignataro

In a white peppermint world as far as the eye could see lived Papa Penguin and Little Penguin.

Papa Penguin has to go away. Little Penguin is accepting but is not sure what he will do. Papa says that he will return before the moon, and that Little Penguin should guard the icicle mountain. What follows is a day full of activity as Little Penguin whiles away the time until Papa’s return. Only when the time of the moon draws near, does anxiety begin to overwhelm Little Penguin. Papa Penguin does ultimately return, and all is right with their world. The illustrations are soft, loose watercolour and make great use of white space to enhance mood changes.

Papa Penguin probably has to search for food, but this is never stated or explained. And it doesn’t matter because the emotion is the same, no matter why a father has to leave. The absence is felt by a small child. As the day progresses the child is distracted by playing but as the end of day comes, they are reminded that the time for Papa’s return is soon. Waiting is never easy and can be even more difficult for young children. Anna Pignataro captures the essence of that childhood waiting. Papa Penguin is true to his word and Papa’s Little Penguin ends as it began with father and child together and secure. This is re-release of this story, published first in 2008 under the title ‘Brave Little Penguin’.

Papa's Little Penguin

Papa’s Little Penguin, Anna Pignataro
Scholastic 2009
ISBN: 9781741695427

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

What Does Your Daddy Do? by Gordon Reece

One day my mummy found me crying in my room.
‘What’s wrong, Tina?’ she asked.
‘Today in class,’ I sobbed, ‘Miss Jones asked us all,
‘What does your daddy do?’

Tina is sad. When Miss Jones asked about what daddies do, she didn’t want to answer. Everyone else’s dad seemed to have a glamorous or important job and she is embarrassed to answer. The question seems to become a competition about who’s dad is the most important or popular or glamorous. But when she tells Mum, Tina is reminded of all the things that really make dads important. Vilma Cencic has drawn all the characters as Australian animals. There is abundant white space and the font is large, easy to read and child-like. The cover shows a proud Tina talking to the class.

A simple question doesn’t always have a simple answer. Tina is overwhelmed by the grand jobs other daddies do. Initially she pretends her daddy is just as glamorous, and is an astronaut. But others tell what her dad really does and she is embarrassed. At home, Mum helps her to remember the most important job daddies can do – being father to their children. The message here is very clear but gently handled. Fathers are important because of their fathering, not their jobs. Rendering the characters as animals keeps the story light and entertaining. Small children can often be caught in an escalating cycle of exaggeration and the first half of What Does Your Daddy Do? uses this to good effect. The pace changes then as Mum comforts her child and brings her back to understanding true value. Another title perfect for Father’s Day, particularly for 3-6 year olds.

What Does Your Daddy Do?

What Does Your Daddy Do?, Gordon Reece Ill Vilma Cencic
Lothian Books, 2009
ISBN: 9781734411129

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

My Dad's a Wrestler, by Matt Zurbo

My dad’s a wrestler!
Not the famous kind, though…

My Dad’s a Wrestler! is a paperback picture book. A small boy describes his father and his father’s wrestling career. Dad is not the most successful wrestler in wrestling history but he perseveres and his son is enormously proud. The text is deadpan and delivered in a plain font at the bottom of each page. In contrast, the images are full of energy as the reader is introduced to Dad and the challenges he faces. No matter how down Dad gets about his lack of success, his son is there to cheer him on.

My Dad’s a Wrestler! is a humorous look at the relationship between a father and son. Even when Dad wins at his wrestling matches, and that isn’t often, people ‘boo’ because he’s supposed to be the baddie. Dad works hard and wrestles in the evening. His son knows Dad’s wins are few and far between, but he’s in the stands anyway cheering loudly. The boy, telling the story in first person, clearly has an incurable case of hero worship. The illustrations show an enormous Dad barely contained by his wrestling suit. His face stubble is anything but stylish and his permanently battered body seems about to fall apart. Illustration colours are often almost sepia as if looking back at old photos. The final image, depicting the depth of the son’s hero-worship is the brightest of all. A funny offbeat story, recommended for those looking for a less twee Father’s Day book.

My Dad's a Wrestler!

My Dad’s a Wrestler!, Matt Zurbo Ill Dean Gorissen
Lothian Books 2009
ISBN: 9780734411136

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews. review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

Daddies, by Catriona Hoy

Mummy thinks that daddies are for washing dishes.
That’s NOT what daddies are for!

It seems that lots of people have the wrong idea about daddies. Mum has an idea, sister Charlotte has an idea. Even Grandma has an idea. But they are wrong, wrong, wrong! Daddies are for wild things. Daddies are for the fun things, the push-the-boundaries things, the exciting things. Catriona Hoy takes the reader on a wild journey through the wonderful things that make daddies so very special. Daddy sometimes looks like he’s on a roller coaster journey, destination unknown. This doesn’t for a minute diminish his energy or enthusiasm.

Children develop different relationships with all the people in their lives, and that includes family. Parents may stand together to present a united front on some matters, but still the father-child relationship will be a different one to the mother-child one. Catriona Hoy provides a joyous and loving look at the strengths of the wonderful relationship between father and child. Mal Webster’s humourous illustrations show a range of perspectives and angles as father and children romp through the pages. Text tips and tumbles around the action. Rooms distort to contain the characters and their exuberance. Daddies is a portrait-format, paper back with an informal text type that hints at the story tone within. Recommended for 3-7 year olds.

Daddies, Catriona Hoy and Mal Webster
Lothian Books 2008
ISBN: 9780734410849