This Is My Dad
Author: Dimity Powell
Illustrator: Nicky Johnston
EK Books, $24.99
Recently, a friend of mine had to do a week-long stint of single parenting, and she confessed it was intimidating.
“My feeling is that all single parents should be given parades and trophies and free childcare.”
The Mum in This Is My Dad is a single parent and children’s author. She has her hands full but she is powering through. Her son, Leo, admires her and clearly feels loved. He’s never known his Dad – so when his teacher asks his class to do Show and Tell about their dads, his heart sinks. Who can he bring to introduce?
More than 10 per cent of households in Australia comprise of a single or primary parent and of those single parents 82 per cent are female.
Author Dimity Powell was only vaguely aware of these statistics when prompted by a proactive teacher-librarian during a Book Week visit to her school.
“She [the teacher-librarian] highlighted a notable absence of mainstream picture books featuring children who had never known a ‘father figure’ and or had no significant male model in their lives,” Powell says.
“To furnish school libraries and homes with a story that embraced this theme was an idea I simply couldn’t let evaporate.”
The result is This Is My Dad, a whimsically wonderful tale, which celebrates families of all shapes and sizes and shows that where love and openness propels and supports family relationships, children will find a way to embrace and tell their family stories.
For Leo, this firstly involves searching for a way to know his Dad. But when he can find no trace of him he realises who he can introduce to his class – and he does so very proudly.
Illustrator Nicky Johnston lived the first seven years of her life in a single parent family and brought this experience to her energetic but soothingly soft illustrations (the gentle approach well-suited to the sensitivity of the topic).
“I know firsthand how the role of both parents can sometimes fall onto one,” Johnston says. “I delved into my own memories and feelings when illustrating this book. I wanted the pride of Leo (at the end of the book) to be visible and understood by all single parents who may feel they are not enough.
“Kids aren’t great at communicating this until they’re much older and, as a kid, all they need is to be loved, cherished and supported, by whoever they have in their world.”
This Is My Dad might well fill a gap in your home or school library. It’s not a trophy – but it is a tribute – and one that should help children and parents value the prize that is their version of family.