Father's Day: Books to Read Aloud

Reading aloud is one of the best ways a parent can spend time with their child. Beyond the obvious benefits of reading with children, story time allows for a very special kind of closeness--that comforting circle formed by a caretaker's arms when a story is being shared. Below are some fantastic titles featuring fathers and grandfathers, perfect for Father's Day read-alouds.

First published in hardcover in 2018, Zack Bush and Gregorio De Lauretis's Made for Me (Familius, $16.99) is here reformatted into a friendly, durable board book. Bush's rhyming text about a father's love is gentle and oh-so-sweet, while De Lauretis's illustrations feature a behemoth of a man tenderly, softly, oh-so-carefully interacting with his newborn baby. Illustrations of giant-dad clutching his alarm clock, excited for a new day with baby, or "hiding" behind a tiny mountain of stuffed animals are sure to melt any father's heart.

Nighttime Symphony is the multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning producer and artist Timbaland's picture book debut, illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award-winner Christopher Myers and KAA Illustration (Atheneum, $17.99). Timbaland's rhyming text is musical both in content and feel, the words beating out a rhythm as a father speaks comfortingly to his child, assuring him he is perfectly safe from the storm outside: "the clouds pour down a steady beat/ to soothe your slumber beneath the sheet." The digital illustrations feature saturated colors--bright reds and yellows especially--that brighten up every rainy page, making the storm anything but dreary.

Employing his poetry skills in a narrative picture book, Joseph Coelho tells in Grandpa's Stories: A Book of Remembering (illus. by Allison Colpoys; Abrams, $16.99) the moving story of a young girl's loss of her Indian grandfather and the memories that help her heal. Coelho's lyrical text walks the reader through a year of seasons, each of which was previously marked by its own special, loving grandfather and granddaughter activity. The little girl recalls the joyful times spent together, helping her cope with the loss. "If all the world were memories," her first-person narration states, "the past would be rooms I could visit,/ and in each room would be my grandpa." The overall beauty of this collaboration comes as close to the majesty of a child's adoration for a grandparent as feels possible. Heartwarming, heartbreaking and inspiring, Grandpa's Stories is a must for every child's library.

I Love My Colorful Nails by Alicia Acosta, Luis Amavisca and illustrated by Gusti (NubeOcho, $15.95), features Ben, a little boy who "loves painting his nails." Because he "loves his colorful nails" so much, Ben is perfectly happy to paint them anytime. That is, until two boys at school taunt him: " 'Painting your nails is for girls.' 'You're a girl! You're a girl!' " Ben feels sad even though, when he finally tells his parents about the jeers, his dad defends his choices. "I'm also a boy," he says, then asks Ben to hand him the orange polish. In exuberant illustrations, Gusti uses a strong, playful brown line and warm swathes of color to depict Ben's loving, contemporary family, his multiracial classroom and the streets of his city. I Love My Colorful Nails highlights how loving family members, friends and educators can effect change.

When the Korean peninsula was divided into North and South in 1953, the consequences were especially tragic for separated families. In the six-plus decades since the ceasefire, reunion has proven virtually impossible. On either side of the Military Demarcation Line, both North and South Korea built fences. Ironically, this Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has flourished as an untouched haven for flora and fauna. When Spring Comes to the DMZ by Uk-Bae Lee, translated by Chungyon Won and Aileen Won (Plough Publishing, $17.95) depicts people, too, arriving at the DMZ, albeit under highly different circumstances. "Grandfather climbs up/ to the DMZ observatory/ and looks at the northern sky." As seasons change, without fail, "Grandfather climbs up to the DMZ lookout again," to gaze longingly at the "northern land." As another year passes and spring returns, Grandfather's only wish is to bypass the lookout, "fling the tightly locked gates wide open" and share the same freedom as the nearby animals. With gentle words and glorious art, Lee inspires the newest generation of readers to lead the way, and make miracles happen.

Matthew A. Cherry's collaboration with illustrator Vashti Harrison (Little Leaders), Hair Love (Kokila/Penguin, $17.99), is an ode to the incredible versatility of African American hair and the charming resilience of a dad dedicated to his daughter. Zuri is an African American girl who introduces readers to her fabulous hair, which "kinks, coils, and curls every which way." This morning, Zuri wants "a perfect hairstyle" for a big event happening later in the day. "Can I help?" Daddy asks. "It'll be a piece of cake." This overly optimistic statement kicks off a journey through various hairstyles that, one after another, unfortunately, do not work out. When Zuri vetoes a final attempt by her dad to pick out her hair ("Daddy, really?"), he leaves and comes back with... a hat. Zuri, tearfully explaining that she needs the right hair to match this special day, has a eureka moment--with the help of a hair blogger, essential natural hair tools and a determined Daddy sweating bullets, Zuri emerges with the perfect style to impress on this special day. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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