Sprout and I got pretty lucky with Sprout's dad. My husband is not only a very loving dad, he's also very involved, and has been from day one. He and Sprout were off having adventures together from the first moment Mommy went back to work, when Sprout had been with us for just four weeks. Initially even a trip to the grocery store was a noteworthy expedition, but gradually they have added a lot more complex activities to their retinue. Together my boys have done just about everything imaginable, a lot of it things that the average dad might not attempt with a toddler, much less a dad who uses a wheelchair.
I'm always on the lookout for picture books that celebrate the role of dads in kids' lives, because honestly I find that they're somewhat in short supply. Even tougher to find are titles where the dad is taking on some nontraditional gender roles, something that my husband and most dads we know do without batting an eye! (After all, that laundry has to be done by somebody, right??) That's why, on a recent library visit, I was thrilled to stumble across Kevin and His Dad by Irene Smalls. It not only covers all of the above, it features an African American family to boot - what's not to love?
In this engaging title, Kevin and his dad are spending the day together while Mom is at work. First the boys are doing their chores - washing windows, doing laundry, fixing the faucet. Dad manages to make everything fun, and the mom in me loves that the emphasis is on doing the household tasks first before they go play. Once all the work is finished, the pair heads outside for some catch, then a movie, then a stop at the diner for milkshakes before walking home in the twilight, talking about their day.
I love the whole vibe of Kevin and His Dad. Here's a dad who's in tune with his kid, doesn't mind having fun but who is teaching the importance of taking care of basic chores. The pictures by Michael Hays (of Abiyoyo fame, one of Sprout's favorites) definitely set the tone and emphasize the author's upbeat text. Here are a father and son who clearly enjoy each other's company, having an average day together that is bound to be a memory this boy will remember for years to come. The urban setting is great too, presenting a nicely balanced look at life in a city setting.
The real find here is that the ethnicity of the characters isn't the focal point. Honestly, it's not easy to find a book with people of color that shows *real life*, as people really live it. Don't get me wrong, I think books about historical events or social inequalities are important. But it's also important to just have reality depicted in an authentic way, such as this warm and welcoming portrait of a father and son passing a day with activities everyone can relate to.
If your library doesn't have this one (it's an older title, but still in print), make a purchase suggestion, or consider buying a copy yourself and donating it. Like our other picks Shopping with Dad and Bigger Than Daddy, Kevin and His Dad is a must-have addition to any well-rounded picture book collection.
Kevin and His Dad by Irene Smalls, published by Little, Brown and Company
First lines: "On Saturday, with Mom away, Dad and I work -- then we play. First we take the vacuum and railroad the rugs -- choo, choo, coming through! I love cleaning up with you."