‘The perfect dad isn’t always a father’.
All families are different, and This is my Dad, a sweet story from Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston, is important for challenging the stereotype of the ‘normal’ family often depicted in children’s books.
When his teacher excitedly announces a new Show and Tell topic, Leo feels his tummy belly-flop. While the other children excitedly ask questions about ‘Tell us about your dad day’. Leo quietly retreats to the corner and wonders what it would be like to have a dad. Leo knows that he is loved by his mum, even while she is off creating stories about monsters, aliens and dragons.
But he can’t help but think about who his dad is – is he a surgeon, a hydro-chute inspector, or even a frisbee-thrower?
The context of Show and Tell is an effective anchor for this exploration of big family themes; it's easily relatable to most young children at school. The story, warmly told, conveys an important message for all of us about the assumptions that we can sometimes make about children and their families.
The soft, pastel illustrations depict a typical classroom; they allow readers to walk in the shoes of Leo, and all children like him, to understand how they might feel when families are discussed at school. Leo’s brave decision to bring his mum for Show and Tell shows children that love can come from many places and that we don’t all need to be the same.
I believe that this beautifully simple story is an important addition to all primary school libraries. It serves as a poignant reminder that each child in the classroom has their own unique home life. As educators it is critical that we ensure that all children have the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the literature that we share. This book would be ideal for sharing around Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but would be equally as valuable at any stage of the year for celebrating families of all shapes and sizes.
For teaching units of work that explore books with similar themes, why not try:
- Who's your real mum, by Bernadette Green and Anna Zobel, explores the nature of family diversity, love and connection with a focus on a rainbow (LGBTQI+) family
- Family Forest, by Kim Kane and Lucia Masciullo, uses nature themes to explore the growth and shape of a family