Leo is an only child living with his mother who is a single parent and an enthusiastic writer of children’s stories, spending much of her day (and nights) battling bad guys and conjuring up strange new worlds.
Leo is accustomed to her virtual absence and comfortable with his family set-up. He loves school, especially opportunities to Show and Tell with the rest of his classmates. However, when they are invited to present a talk about their fathers, Leo falls silent and withdraws. How can he celebrate someone he has never met? Leo has never known a father figure and endeavours to find clues as to who he might have been.
Disappointingly, his search comes up empty and he worries that he will have nothing to share for the TELL US ABOUT YOUR DAD DAY at school. It’s not until Leo realises that he does know someone who is cool, courageous and clever that he recognises a creative and unconventional solution to his dilemma.
With over 10% of households in Australia comprising of a single or primary parent and of those single parents, 82% of them being female, This Is My Dad is a timely commentary on contemporary family dynamics and societal trends that highlights a situation many children experience within classroom set ups. Similar figures exist in countries throughout, New Zealand, the Americas and Europe. Until I was promoted by a proactive teacher librarian during a Book Week visit to her school, I was only vaguely aware of these statistics. She highlighted a notable absence of mainstream picture books reflecting children who had never known a ‘father figure’ and or had no significant male model in their lives. Like other casual suggestions for book ideas from people in the frontline of education and child care, this was an idea I simply couldn’t let go.
The absence of Leo’s father could be indicative of numerous situations: father abandoned the relationship before the child was born, FIFO dad, imprisoned dad, deceased dad, LGBT situations; the point being that there is no opportunity for the child to make any real, meaningful contact with their biological father and therefore in essence they have no dad – to celebrate – as it were.
This Is My Dad suggests that although the presence of strong positive male role models is crucial to a child’s well-being and healthy emotional balance, it is simply not always a realistic possibility and that the strengths and attributes of primary carers be they female, single-parents, same-sex parents, grandparents or otherwise are equally worthy of celebration.
Once again, I was super fortunate to have the uber-gifted, Nicky Johnston illustrate Leo’s story. Her attractive water colour portray of Leo’s predicament, a large and seemingly insurmountable concern for a young primary-schooler, suffuse every page with generous heart and affection. Colours glow with hope and touching sentiment creating that magical affinity between story character and reader. I just love them.
This book embraces the themes of family, relationships, fathers, single parents, imagination, writing, occupations, and positive role modelling.
Published: March 2022
Illustrator: Nicky Johnston
Publisher: EK Books, $24.99
Format: Hardcover 24pp
Ideal for: 4 – 8 year olds, single parent families, childcare workers and educators
Published Reviews, Testimonials and Interviews:
Love the book and the themes embedded into it. It covers exactly what we need for children who do not have either a present role model or perhaps a suitable role model that we often associate with ‘male’ figures. It opens so many doors and discussions. Louise Brooks TL St Francis Xavier Primary School