Whether fathers are superheroes or average guys, human or animal or even mechanical, Father’s Day is a day to celebrate dads of all kinds. These four picture books will enchant young readers and provide the perfect bedtime reading, any day of the year.

SUPER DAD?

He might not have a spandex uniform, and he might not have super powers . . . actually, there are lot of things this super Dad can’t do, and My Dad, My Hero by Ethan Long lists all of them. A little redheaded boy with a pet parrot follows his father through his day-to-day routine, watching him fumble and bumble through life. The boy catches a peek of his dad without super strength when Mom has to help him open a jar of pickles. His dad is definitely not invincible, since he cuts himself shaving three times. He doesn’t dress like a hero with a cape hiding underneath his clothes, but he does have a tiny bit of toilet paper trailing from his shoe. Dad’s foibles could have been a joke that kept on going, but the story takes a different direction. As he thinks back to throwing a baseball, playing Battleship and washing the car with his down-to-earth dad, the boy realizes “my Dad does spend a lot of time with me.” And that makes him both "super" and a "hero" in the eyes of his son.

My Dad, My Hero pokes fun at the big guys we love the most, but it also celebrates them in spite of their imperfections. The retro Ben-Day dot-style of illustration coupled with the comic book layout gives this picture book the nostalgic feel of an old-school superhero graphic novel. Dad's dialogue in every scene is limited to sound effects and grunts, which allows the little boy’s narration to say it all.

TWO SIDES TO THE STORY

Sadie and her dad are finally going to the zoo, and nothing—not an escaped tiger or even some rain—will stop them from getting there. Everything always gets in the way of the zoo, but Sadie is determined that today will be perfect. During the ride there, when Dad says, “Sadie, it’s raining,” Sadie is 100-percent positive that it’s not. When she looks out her window, the sun is shining and people everywhere are enjoying the beautiful weather. Dad’s side might be gloomy and raining, but Sadie sees sunflowers and people watering their lawns. They finally arrive at the zoo, but when Sadie gets out to inspect Dad’s side, she announces, “I don’t want you to get wet . . . We should come back to the zoo another day.” Then, just as they begin to head home, the sun comes out on both sides of the car. With huge eyes, Sadie announces, “We’re going to the zoo,” and away they go.

My Side of the Car is written and illustrated by father-daughter duo Kate and Jules Feiffer, who actually had this very conversation (and to this day, Kate is convinced she was right!). Drawn with watercolor and pencil, the loose-line illustrations show a wonky red car driving down a forest road with one side in puddles and the other in the sun. Both sides are created in wild scribbles, as though the illustrations themselves come straight from a child. Dad is wonderfully patient with the forgivably stubborn daughter, and his silence in the face of her unflinching optimism makes her perfect day seem possible. My Side of the Car is a funny book with a wonderful appreciation for a child’s perspective.

A PRIZE FOR DAD

Squirrels love their dads, too, and the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed squirrel in Blue-Ribbon Dad really loves his. The story begins at noon, announcing a countdown for the next five hours until Dad comes home from work. Between moments of the countdown, the little squirrel thinks of all the great things his father does for him, such as waking him up in the morning, helping with his homework and teaching him to tie his shoes. At hour four, Mom begins to bake a cake for the father’s return, while the little squirrel goes in search of his glue, glitter and clay. The two continue the countdown while hard at work, only stopping to think of how Dad reads bedtime stories and comes to swimming practice. Then—finally!—Dad comes home to Mom’s cake and the little squirrel’s homemade Blue Ribbon to celebrate just how great a dad he is.

Simple text and cuddly characters make Blue-Ribbon Dad an ideal book for fathers and new readers to share. Author Beth Raisner Glass tells the story in sing-song rhyme, perfect for sounding out letters and letting little ones everywhere fall in love with reading (“When it’s time for haircuts / My dad sits next to me. / We each look in the mirror, / As handsome as can be!”). Illustrator Margie Moore gives the story its traditional charm with black pen and watercolor squirrels on cold-press paper. Blue-Ribbon Dad loves dads so much, it includes a free punch-out blue ribbon for children to give to their own fathers.

ONE LAST LAP BEFORE BED

Mitchell will not go to bed—but when his dad surprises him with a very special driver's license, bedtime can’t come fast enough! His new car is up on his dad’s own shoulders, and after some quick inspections of the tires (feet), the engine (tummy) and the windshield (glasses), Mitchell and his dad are off! “VROOM!” says his dad as Mitchell hits the gas and (after ramming a wall and quickly hitting reverse) zips around the corner to bed. The next night, Mitchell loves to honk the horn (Dad’s nose) as they screech around corners with a red-dash trail behind them to reveal their wild route. When it’s time to refill the gas tank, Mitchell and his car have a bit of a disagreement on the fuel (cookies!) and soon it’s time for bed. Mitchell falls asleep and dreams of driving through a vibrant yellow field with a cookie gas station in the distance.

A fast-paced, laugh-out-loud book, Mitchell’s License is a great Father’s Day gift for the guys who know just how to keep their rambunctious drivers happy. Author Hallie Durand finds the funniest ways for Mitchell to drive his dad, such as backing him out of the garage by yanking on his ear and “[turning] on his headlights and [pulling] up to the cookie jar.” Illustrator Tony Fucile’s digital art has a pencil-and-marker look that captures a cool young dad with a soul patch who is a curly-haired ball of energy. For father-son car lovers everywhere, Mitchell’s License is just too much fun to read only once before bedtime—your little driver will want at least one more lap before he drops into bed.

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