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
Navigating life can be complicated and yet here is a beautiful book, delightfully presented, that offers recognition to those who single parent and all those small humans in single parent families. … This Is My Dad … was just the tonic I needed to read. Dimity presents books aimed at young readers on topics that can be tricky to understand, and she does it so well. In a world filled with worries, this book shows that you must sometimes think outside the box to help make sense of what’s around you. Leo, the young protagonist, LOVES show and tell, but the latest topic is making him worried. The excitement of “Tell us about your Dad Day!” caused heightened emotions and anxious feelings for Leo, who lives with his mum in a single parent family. This Is My Dad needs to be in every library, to support our young people making sense of their world. Look out for this book. Therese Stafford, Head of Library and Research, The Lakes College
This Is My Dad is an important book for families that may not find themselves represented in picture books often. It is also a useful resource for any family wishing to explore different family structures. The topic is sensitively negotiated by the picture book creators who craft a space in which many different families could fit and feel comfortable while telling a story that is both realistic and positive. Viv Young, Picture Book Parents
(An) important look into the anxiety that an announcement such as hers can make (tell us about your dad, day), how carefully we have to tread and how we need to change our focus so that our students are not marginalised or become anxious when what to them is “normal”, becomes apparently not-so. This is a book to share with a class whenever one of those traditional celebrations rolls around, or the curriculum demands a focus on families. Apart from resonating with many of the children themselves, it could be a time to examine Leo’s feelings when Miss Reilly made her announcement. Leo’s story is a reminder that, … we need to tread carefully and between Powell’s writing and Johnston’s illustrations, we not only have a great heads-up for teachers but also a book which appears to be for littlies but which can enable older students to examine their own perspectives at arm’s length, perhaps even reflect on their own situations and how that has shaped them. Barbara Braxton, TL The Bottom Shelf education blog
This picture book holds a beautifully balanced celebration of family, creativity and ingenuity. Whether it’s the cheerful, methodical way that Leo’s problem-solving comes to life, the funny and thoughtful artwork – or more than likely, the magical author/illustrator combo of both – This Is My Dad busts through typical family stereotypes and conventions in all of the best ways. Elizabeth Vercoe, Kids Book Review
Dimity has brought to life a very real and ‘close to home’ scenario that many children face daily – one parent families. There are, of course, many reasons why a family can be in this situation but the absence of a parent can be a very hard-hitting realisation for children especially in a school situation. Dimity, through her gentle words, and Nicky, with fun filled warm illustrations, probe the dilemma our young character, Leo, faces – how do you describe a dad that is not present in your life? As usual, Dimity’s work provides an excellent springboard for open and honest discussions when dealing with sensitive issues. Her beautiful picture books empower the reader to gain confidence and coping strategies in challenging situations. I highly recommend you check out other books by the awesome duo – Dimity and Nicky. Thank you, Dimity, for placing in parent and teachers’ hands these book gems. Louise Brooks, TL St Francis Xavier Primary School, Insta Review
A sweet story about family, love and recognising that life is not one shape fits all. There is lots to love about this sweet and gentle story. Can You Tell Me A Story, Insta Review
This Is My Dad might well fill a gap in your home or school library. It’s not a trophy – but it is a tribute – and one that should help children and parents value the prize that is their version of family. Read the full review article via link by Marjorie Lewis-Jones, The South Sydney Herald
I just wanted to send a quick note to say thank you. I’m a teacher librarian and a SMBC (solo mother by choice). Your book, This Is My Dad has just come across my desk to accession into my library and it’s beautiful. Well done, congratulations. It’s beautiful. Alison Shearer, TL
A unique and touching way to deal with having a single parent during Show and Tell. Pastel illustrations echo the mood. Margaret Hamilton, Pinerolo The Children’s Book Cottage.
This book acknowledges single parents and the important roles they play to their children. It celebrates families of every shape and size, and highlights the fact that whilst the presence of a male role model is helpful to a child’s upbringing and well-being, it is not always possible or realistic, and there are many other carers that are equally as worthy of celebrating. Michelle, In The Good Books Blog
The definition of “Family” has changed dramatically in recent years, and society has accepted these changes and welcomed loving relationships. This very topical, hard back picture book has simple and attractive pastel illustrations which clearly reflect the feelings of Leo and the other characters. For many children the family unit does not consist of a Mother and Father. Grasshopper2, Blue Wolf Reviews
“It might take decades to be an overnight success. Persistence, patience and consistency are key.” Meet the Author Interview with Teena Raffa-Mulligan