While there are a lot of children’s and young adult books with terrible fathers. the biggest challenge facing fictional children is dead or missing ones. Forget the single parent crisis in the real world; try being a fictional kid. These guys suffer mightily from what some editors and agents call “dead parent syndrome,” – the writerly act of killing off the parents so that the story can unfold without adult interference.
However, there are some wonderful fictional dads (although, true, some of them are dead and are wonderful in absentia: see James Potter and Katniss’s dad). In honor of Father’s Day, here are two books with excellent still-living dads:
DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD by Roald Dahl
While some of you might be more familiar with the newer Quentin Blake illustrations, this was the copy I had, and I ADORED it. First of all, I wanted to live in a snug, cozy caravan. Second of all, I wanted to eat bubble and squeak and toad in the hole more than anything in the world. Then there were the stories about poaching pheasants, the standing up against bullies, the car repair, the wonderful complimenting of Danny…oh, he was just the greatest. I realize that by modern standards a dad who keeps his son out of school to help prepare for a massive heist would require a call to Child Services, but I don’t care. I agree with Danny, when he says, “My father, without a doubt, was the most marvelous and exciting father any boy could have.”
THE PENDERWICKS by Jeanne Birdsall
Mr. Penderwick is long-suffering indeed, with his four girls, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty. His habit of quoting Latin at them is totally endearing, as is his obsession with plants. And furthermore, his loving support of Jane’s writing, when her hopes have been dashed to pieces, brought a tear to my eye (all writers need a Mr. Penderwick from time to time).
While he resists remarriage in Book Two and is completely absent in the newest Penderwick installment, THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE, he is still a top-shelf dad. One of my favorite lines: “Will all my daughters be returned to me, one by one, soaking wet?” as yet another sodden and sobbing damsel returns home. Here’s hoping for book #4, and an excellent movie adaptation!
What about you? Who are some of your favorite fictional dads?