By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
Greetings, Darling Readers. Take a moment, please and thank you, and re-read that title, and take note that it doesn’t say “Best Literary Dads,” “Most Lovable Literary Dads,” or even “Exemplary Human Beings of the Male Persuasion Who Happen To Have Fathered A Child.” To further belabor the point—some of the entrants on this list (see the author’s disclaimer at the end of this article) will never be considered for the Father Of The Year Award and as such, you’d be better served to find another source of reference for good parenting skills. In no particular order:
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.
Rick tops my personal list of memorable literary dads for a couple of reasons. Not only is he doing the single-dad thing, but he’s doing it in a post-apocalyptic world while also being the de facto leader of a ragged group of survivors. Seriously, you think hauling your kid to guitar practice once a week is a big deal? Try doing it while being pursued by flesh-eating zombies.
“The Man/ The Father”
The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Coming in at number two on my list is another post-apocalyptic dad. The Man (also called The Father), like Rick Grimes, is doing everything he can to keep his son alive in the barren wasteland that America has become. Stark and haunting, this story of the bond between The Father and The Boy is one that will resonate with the reader for a long time to come.
The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling.
Arthur may come across to some readers as a more laid-back dad, content to let his wife Molly take the lead on child-rearing (and in particular, disciplinary) matters in the wild and wonderful Weasley household, but he is undeniably a kind and loving dad to his own red-haired brood of witches and wizards as well as a fine father figure to young Harry Potter.
The Shining by Stephen King.
Many of you may be more familiar with Jack Nicholson’s brilliant and beautifully unhinged performance in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, but the literary Jack was certainly a dad who leaves a lasting impression. Sure, he had a whole herd of demons in his head to deal with, as well as the ones inhabiting the Overlook Hotel, and he tried to kill his son Danny at their urging, but what else are you going to do when you’re a recovering alcoholic who has taken a job as a caretaker of a haunted, snowbound hotel?
Horton the Elephant
Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss.
When the flighty (you should pardon the pun) Mayzie the bird lays an egg but can’t be bothered to go the parental distance to seeing it hatched and takes off on an extended vacation to Palm Beach, Horton takes on the role of mother and father to the egg. Even after Horton is captured and put in a traveling circus, he still won’t abandon his charge. “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant . . . An elephant’s faithful—one hundred percent!” Horton’s parental love and patience is rewarded a thousandfold when his egg hatches.
Don Vito Corleone
The Godfather by Mario Puzo.
The patriarch of the Corleone clan may have had a few moral shortcomings, but as evidenced by his quote “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” he most certainly loved his children. Let’s just overlook the fact that his love imperiled his children and led to the deaths of two of them. Hey, nobody ever said life in a mafia family was a walk in the park.
(OK, remember that part in the intro when I said this list was about memorable fathers, not good ones?) Humbert Humbert is not merely a bad stepfather to Dolores; he is thoroughly, unadulteratedly evil. His vile obsession with the 12-year-old child he privately nicknamed Lolita destroys her childhood and ultimately, her life.
King Lear by William Shakespeare.
Old King Lear was a silly old dear. In a completely misguided plan to determine which of his daughters loved him best, and would therefore inherit his kingdom, he is driven to madness. (Note to self: I wonder if his daughters were teenagers.)
The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.
Fourteen-year-old Charlie Fox’s dad Allie is a brilliant yet slightly unhinged inventor who has had just about enough of American consumerism. He moves his family from suburban Massachusetts to the eponymous Mosquito Coast in Honduras. (Spoiler alert!) Allie is killed by a religious zealot named Spellgood, but before his untimely death, he invents this really cool ice-making machine.
Colonel Wilbur “Bull” Meecham
The Great Santini by Pat Conroy.
Inspired by Conroy’s own experiences growing up in a military family, this powerful and immensely readable novel is told from the viewpoint of Bull’s son Ben and chronicles the complicated relationship between them. The lengths to which Ben goes to earn the love and acceptance of his father, “A warrior without a war,” is at times heart-wrenching, but it is clear that Bull Meecham loves his family with the same fierce passion that he loves his country and the United States Marine Corps.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Yes, I saved the best for last. Atticus Finch is the absolute acme of parenthood—he is kind, dignified, brave, and loyal. He holds tight to his principles, even when it comes at a tremendous cost. It is nearly impossible not to be inspired by Atticus’ quiet yet steely strength.
So, Dearest Readers, if you’ve made it this far, bless your heart, and thank you from the bottom of mine. Regardless of your location or your circumstances, may you all have a blessed Father’s Day. Happy reading—
(***Same as it ever was—the opinions and viewpoints expressed here are solely those of the author and are in no way reflective of Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, or their fathers.)
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department
Let us now praise . . . Dear Old Dad! Yes, that fixer of bicycle chains and broken hearts. That guy, who ferried you and your giggly girlfriends to the skating rink or the mall, and reluctantly agreed to let you out of the car a little ways down the sidewalk so that you wouldn’t be seen climbing out of a very uncool Dadmobile. The fellow who coached your youth soccer team and took everyone out for ice cream afterward, rain or shine, win or lose. The man who escorted you down the aisle and tried valiantly not to let you or anyone else see the tears in his eyes. The one who will always be there for you, and for his grandchildren.
Here, in no particular order, are nine great books that celebrate Dad.
Tad And Dad by David Ezra Stein. Tad the Tadpole just loves spending every minute with his super cool awesome dad, including sharing his lily pad for sleeping. But when Tad begins to grow bigger, the lily pad starts to become a bit crowded. What to do? Caldecott Honor winner David Ezra Stein’s sweet story of familial love will amuse and delight, and may look a little bit like your own life.
Kevin And His Dad by Irene Smalls. This Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner chronicles a day Kevin and his father spend tidying the house, doing some repairs, playing ball, seeing a movie, having milkshakes, and just sharing each other’s company. It is a graceful and powerful celebration of the bond that exists between boys and their dads.
Dad and Pop: An Ode To Fathers and Stepfathers by Kelly Bennett. The protagonist of this story is a very lucky girl indeed. She has a father and a stepfather who are very different in many ways, but they share one trait without question: they both love her very much.
Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss. Horton the Elephant sat and sat on the egg Mayzie the Bird laid (and abandoned) because “I meant what I said and I said what I meant . . . An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!” Horton’s patience and love is rewarded a thousandfold by the creature that hatches out of the egg that he protected and nurtured. Pure magic!
How To Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler. Little Jumbo’s dad is having a bad day, and LJ has no idea why (hint: it’s LJ’s own mischief-making that is causing Dad’s consternation.) Fortunately he does know how to cheer Dad right up. Fred Koehler’s whimsical debut is a lovely tribute to fathers everywhere, and to their own high-octane Little Jumbos.
Dad Runs Away With The Circus by Etgar Keret. In this wildly imaginative picture book, Audrey and Zach’s father joins the circus, travels the world, and becomes a star. Dad’s message to Audrey and Zach: you’re never too old to follow your dreams. This is the debut children’s book by acclaimed Israeli writer Keret.
Rock On, Mom & Dad! (A Pete The Cat book) by James Dean. Pete’s mom and dad are total rock stars, as they do so much for him. But how can he show them how much he appreciates and loves them? His rockin’ surprise is a result of Pete discovering that it’s not what you do, but how you do it, that matters–as long as it’s from the heart.
My Dad The Magnificent by Kristy Parker. Seems like no matter how cool your dad is, there’s always someone whose dad is just a little bit cooler. When Buddy’s new friend Alex brags about his firefighter dad, Buddy can’t resist being drawn into the game of one-upsmanship and invents a new and increasingly exotic persona for his dad each day for a week. At the end of the story, Buddy realizes that his plain old dad is pretty magnificent, even if he wears a business suit instead of bunker pants.
The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman. More graphic short story than traditional children’s picture book, this witty and whimsical book by the author of Coraline explores what can happen when you want something so badly that you’re willing to trade your own father for it . . . and then what happens when Mom gets home and learns what you’ve done.
Thanks for reading. Happy Father’s Day to one and all—
(As always, the opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and in no way reflect upon the beliefs and principles of Williamson County Public Library, its employees, or their fathers.)