The best picture books about fathers

Who am I?

As a picture book author and mom, I am constantly inspired by the world around me. I love watching my children, and I love how they adore their dad and he adores them in return. So many of my stories have been inspired by their interactions. While I am no expert on fatherhood, I have been fortunate to have had a loving dad who played “Monster in the Middle,” who took us for rides on his motorcycle, and reminded us that we could accomplish anything we put our mind to. I love books that remind us of the power of a loving father-child relationship and hope you, too, will be lifted by these joyful stories.


I wrote...

Help Wanted, Must Love Books

By Janet Sumner Johnson, Courtney Dawson (illustrator),

Book cover of Help Wanted, Must Love Books

What is my book about?

Shailey loves bedtime, especially reading with her dad. But her dad starts a new job, and it gets in the way of their bedtime routine. So Shailey takes action! She fires her dad, posts a Help Wanted sign, and starts interviews immediately. She is thrilled when her favorite characters from fairytales line up to apply. But Sleeping Beauty can't stay awake, the Gingerbread Man steals her book, and Snow White brings along her whole team.

Shailey is running out of options. Is bedtime ruined forever?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Bedtime Daddy!

Janet Sumner Johnson Why did I love this book?

Bedtime, Daddy! is a role reversal book where baby bear puts daddy bear to bed. This book had me giggling the whole way through because I was there for it all. Daddy needing to use the bathroom one last time. Needing a drink of water. Asking ALL the silly questions. Kids and parents alike can relate. But what shines through is the love between daddy and kid. Just adorable all around!

By Sharon Giltrow, Katrin Dreiling (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bedtime Daddy! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Putting Daddy to bed can be hard work. Especially when he starts crying! This story will show you how to wrestle your daddy into his pajamas and read just one more bedtime story. "I'm thirrrrrrrrssssssty," says Daddy. "I need to poop ... I'm hungry ... But I'll miss you," he says, while he looks at you with cutie eyes. You'll have to battle the bedtime excuses and use go-away monster spray until Daddy finally goes to sleep. Bedtime can be a mission for many, but with these gorgeous illustrations of a little bear and his dad, this is the perfect…


Book cover of Hair Love

Janet Sumner Johnson Why did I love this book?

Hair Love highlights the dilemma of a little girl needing to do her hair when only Dad is home. This beautiful story reminds us that while a Mom and Dad each bring their own skillset when it comes to caring for their kids, both love their children and always do their best to help. We don’t see stories about dads and daughters often enough, and this one is just heart-warming.

By Matthew A. Cherry, Vashti Harrison,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Hair Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Based on the Oscar winning short film!

It's up to Daddy to give his daughter an extra-special hair style in this story of self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters.

Zuri knows her hair is beautiful, but it has a mind of its own!

It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Mum always does Zuri's hair just the way she likes it - so when Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn.

But he LOVES his Zuri, and he'll do anything to make her - and her hair…


Book cover of My Papi Has a Motorcycle

Janet Sumner Johnson Why did I love this book?

My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a unique look at not just a father-daughter relationship, but at how they connect with their whole community. My own dad had a motorcycle, and from waiting for him to get home from work, to slipping that big helmet on, to holding onto him tightly as we flew down the streets, I connected with this story and the bond between father and daughter. A special outing with Dad, or Papi, is always a treat, and this book brings that to life.

By Isabel Quintero, Zeke Peña (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Papi Has a Motorcycle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A celebration of the love between a father and daughter, and of a vibrant immigrant neighborhood, by an award-winning author and illustrator duo.

When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she's always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.

But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.

With vivid illustrations and text bursting with heart, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is a young girl's love letter to her…


Book cover of I Don't Want to Be a Frog

Janet Sumner Johnson Why did I love this book?

I Don’t Want to be a Frog is a hilarious conversation between a young frog and his dad. When the young frog wants to be a cat, rabbit, pig, owl, or really anything but a frog, it’s up to his dad to stay calm and remind him why it’s so great being exactly who he is. I love that the dad is so matter-of-fact. That he never loses patience, and he never tells his son to just stop. True dad love is sometimes as simple as being there and answering questions. Oh, and the awesome ending will crack you up! Such a fun book.

By Dev Petty, Mike Boldt (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Don't Want to Be a Frog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

The hit book about a willful young frog with a serious identity crisis and his heard-it-all-before father is now available in paperback. Perfect for fans of Mo Willems’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back!

Frog wants to be anything but a slimy, wet frog. A cat, perhaps. Or a rabbit. An owl? But when a hungry wolf arrives—a wolf who HATES eating frogs—our hero decides that being himself isn’t so bad after all. In this very silly story with a sly message, told in hilarious dialogue between a feisty young frog…


Book cover of Knuffle Bunny

Janet Sumner Johnson Why did I love this book?

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale is more than the story of a child’s missing beloved object. It is about the everyday things that a father and daughter do together. It is about the lengths a dad will go to fix a problem he was slow in figuring out. It is about the love between father and daughter. This story is so relatable, you can’t help but falling in love, and reading over and over with your kids. Or by yourself. Just because.

By Mo Willems,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Knuffle Bunny as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

The first in the much-loved Knuffle Bunny series, join Trixie, her dad and her favourite stuffed bunny in this award-winning and brilliantly observed cautionary tale.

A Caldecott Honor book from the creator of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and That Is Not a Good Idea!, this is the brilliantly true-to-life tale of what happens when Daddy's in charge and things go terribly, hilariously wrong. Merging expressive cartoon-esque illustrations with beautiful black-and-white photographs of New York, the visually striking story follows Daddy, Trixie and Knuffle Bunny on their trip to the neighbourhood Laundromat. But their adventure takes a dramatic…


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The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

Book cover of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

Ashley Rubin Author Of The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

New book alert!

Who am I?

I have been captivated by the study of prisons since my early college years. The fact that prisons are so new in human history still feels mind-blowing to me. I used to think that prisons have just always been around, but when you realize they are actually new, that has major implications. This is nowhere more clear than at the beginning: how hard it was to get to the point where prisons made sense to people, to agree on how prisons should be designed and managed, and to keep on the same path when prisons very quickly started to fail. It’s still puzzling to me.

Ashley's book list on the origins of American prisons

What is my book about?

What were America's first prisons like? How did penal reformers, prison administrators, and politicians deal with the challenges of confining human beings in long-term captivity as punishment--what they saw as a humane intervention?

The Deviant Prison centers on one early prison: Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in Philadelphia, one of the leading cities for penal reform, Eastern ultimately defied national norms and was the subject of intense international criticism.

The Deviant Prison traces the rise and fall of Eastern's unique "Pennsylvania System" of solitary confinement and explores how and why Eastern's administrators kept the system going, despite great personal cost to themselves. Anyone interested in history, prisons, and criminal justice will find something to enjoy in this book.

The Deviant Prison: Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary and the Origins of America's Modern Penal System, 1829-1913

By Ashley Rubin,

What is this book about?

Early nineteenth-century American prisons followed one of two dominant models: the Auburn system, in which prisoners performed factory-style labor by day and were placed in solitary confinement at night, and the Pennsylvania system, where prisoners faced 24-hour solitary confinement for the duration of their sentences. By the close of the Civil War, the majority of prisons in the United States had adopted the Auburn system - the only exception was Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, making it the subject of much criticism and a fascinating outlier. Using the Eastern State Penitentiary as a case study, The Deviant Prison brings to light…


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