The Disney Dads book list attempts to answer the question: WHICH BOOKS DID DADS ENJOY THE MOST THIS YEAR? New books, old books, bestsellers or rare finds — we don’t care when they were published, we just want to know what dads of various walks of life ACTUALLY read in 2013, both to themselves and to their kids — and which of those they’d recommend to other dads. We asked our own dad bloggers, along with every dad we interviewed over the course of the year, and from that long list of responses, we’ve chosen our absolute favorites.
Recommended by Bob Shea
Shea says, “I do still read aloud to Ryan, even though he’s old enough to read on his own. Often if I’m putting him to bed, he wants me to read a picture book. He picks books he knows I think are funny — so that we’re able to laugh together. My top two favorites are by Laurie Keller because they’re so dense with jokes: The Scrambled States of America [Henry Holt & Company, 1998] and Arnie the Doughnut [Henry Holt & Company, 2003.] Both are very funny, and both of them have very well defined characters—so you can act them out.”
Bob Shea is author of the hugely popular Dinosuar vs. books and this year’s Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, published by Disney-Hyperion.
Recommended by John Rocco
The Caldecott Honor recipient John Rocco told us that he’s a devoted out-loud reader to his 7 year old daughter Alaya Marzipan. Bedtime books are very important in their house, given both mom and dad are children’s book writers and illustrators — but also because Alaya attends a Waldorf School and therefore watches no television or media of any kind. Books, and the stories they deliver, are highly cherished and thoroughly enjoyed in Rocco’s relationship with his daughter. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering: This 2004 Newbery Medal winner follows the adventures of a mouse named Despereaux Tilling (Candlewick Press.) and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: A classic English novel from 1908 featuring a troupe of charming and witty anthropomorphised animal characters (Mr. Toad, Ratty, Mole, and Badger among others) are two of John and Alaya’s all-time favorites.
John Rocco won the Caldecott Honor in 2012 for his book Blackout. His latest book, Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom was released this year by Disney-Hyperion. You can read more of Rocco’s book recommendations here.
Recommended by David Noel Edwards
Says Edwards, “This year [being the 50th anniversary of the Disney film] it dawned on me that I’d never read any of the Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers [available in reprint with the original illustrations by Mary Shepard from Odyssey Classics.] I don’t know how I overlooked them, but now I really wish I had read them to my children immediately following The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. All of the Poppins books are especially appropriate for very young children and very old adults (you’ll see what I mean). They contain all kinds of little-known details about Mary Poppins that will amuse, inform, and inspire everyone, especially those who intend to see Saving Mr. Banks.”
David Edwards is a regular Disney Dads contributor. In addition, he is a rare book collector, computer programmer, photographer, and composer of music for film, ballet, and theatre. He is the father of two adult children, Alex, and Kate.
Recommended by Jeff Kinney
Says Kinney, “Probably the way my father influenced me the most was that he fostered a love of comics in me. He introduced me to these great Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics from the 1950s and 60s that were written by Carl Barks. I consider them to be the best form of storytelling I’ve ever read. My father always made sure to leave the comics page open in the newspaper in the morning so we kids could read them. I think that without my father, I wouldn’t have ended up on the career path that I’m on. Fantagraphics is re-releasing those [Carl Barks] comics in hardcover form, so it’s great because I’m able to buy those and pass them on to my kids.”
Jeff Kinney is a game designer, producer, actor, and author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Recommended by Craig Yoshihara
Says Yoshihara, “The Monster at the End of The Book [originally published in 1971] stars one of my favorites, Grover from Sesame Street. This book made me laugh hysterically as a child and it does the same now for my daughter Emma. Last year it also became available as an interactive app on iPhone, and it’s made even funnier! In addition to all the other things I love about the book, it has the added benefit that I get to use my ‘Yoda voice’ in portraying everyone’s favorite blue monster.”
Craig Yoshihara is a frequent Disney Dads contributor, a minister, blogger, and avid Disney enthusiast in California. He has a wife and two daughters.
Recommended by Matthew Barry
Says Barry, “I recommend Journey by Aaron Becker [Candlewick Press, 2013.] It’s not necessarily a bedtime book, per se… but as the father of a five year old just starting to learn to read, Becker’s picture book is a revelation. It tells a rich and surprisingly dense story about a little girl looking to escape her humdrum life with the help of a magic crayon. We’ve revisited Becker’s world many times, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
Matthew Barry is our unofficial Disney Dads resident Jedi expert. He’s also an award-winning filmmaker, somewhat-clueless husband, and father of two wonderful kids.
Our pick in the “Grown-Up Picture Book” category this year is bar none Mo Willems’ Don’t Pigeonhole Me! Dads will likely know Willems’ work from having read his fantastic childrens’ Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books aloud to their kids. The sketches in this compilation represent two decades of free form drawing that Willems describes as “simple, mindless doodling . . . wordless stories, something I was (and am) afraid to try with my real books.” Though all children are familiar with Willems’ work whether they know it or not, as well as the work of Eric Carle who wrote the book’s foreword, the sketches inside are more New Yorker cartoon-ish or The Far Side-esque than children’s fare. Kids might “get” and even enjoy some of the artwork, but much of it is rather sophisticated and abstract for kids — but is just right for dad to settle in to all by himself. It’s a great book to have on your coffee or bedside table. You’ll be instantly amused, and it’s so jam packed that you’ll be able to look at it little by little all year long. Published in June 2013 by Disney Editions. Read our interview with Willems here.
Finally, our Parenting Author of the Year: Richard Louv. Though they’re not new releases, Louv’s books Last Child in the Woods (2005) and The Nature Principle, (2011) both published by Algonquin, are imperative reads for any parent in today’s world. If you haven’t read his work yet, now is the time. Having coined the phrase “Nature Deficit Disorder” Louv writes about the importance of kids having a tangible connection to nature. He speaks to the role nature plays in parents connecting with their own children, and how our health and psychological wholeness are dependent on being around trees, dirt, and fresh air. The Children and Nature Network, which he co-founded, is a great way to see his principles making a real difference — and it’s a way that you can get involved with the parenting-in-nature movement and gain insights and ideas from others. Richard Louv is doing great things for the next generation of kids — he’s wise, incredibly accessible and easy to read, heartfelt and warm, and definitely worth checking out yourself. To find out more about Richard Louv and his books, read our interview with him or visit his website.