Why we should value those Daddy Hugs!
One of the goals of My Life In Books is to guide you to quality picture books.
I want to reduce your confusion and save you time when it comes to selecting picture books that will satisfy both you and the kids in your care. Obviously, there's no one size fits all, and my Good to Read recommendations at the bottom of each article are by no means exhaustive. But my goal remains the same - for you to experience and enjoy the intimacy of story time, because I know firsthand how powerful that is.
This week, I am sharing another dad’s story with you, and his own mission to help connect fathers with newborn babies through the power of reading.
In 2007, Jane and I worked on the picture book, Daddy Hug (HarperCollins 2008) - a celebration of fathers from the Animal Kingdom (and follow-up to 2005's Mommy Mine).
It’s unusual for us to work on the same project, and we treated the collaboration much the same as any other: I wrote the text; it was edited and approved by the publisher and then passed on to Jane to illustrate. She did an amazing job, and Daddy Hug was shortlisted for a Booktrust Early Years Award (Best Book for Babies), who described it as a ‘beautiful picture book.’
Daddies come in all shapes and sizes—slimy and scruffy, long and fluffy! And daddies make all different kinds of noises—squeak and chirp, buzz and bumble! But what do all daddies have in common? They make us feel safe and snug with tender daddy hugs!
- Daddy Hug synopsis
When you work on a book, you have no idea what impact it may have somewhere later along the line.
That's the cool thing about books. They transcend time and space. And the annoying thing too - once they're out there, they take on a life of their own. Like kids who have fledged the nest.
In April this year, we received a heartbreaking message from a father in the U.S., Dan Courtine.
With Dan’s blessing, I would very much like to share his family’s story, as it’s such a vivid illustration of the power of story time.
From the day of their birth 8 and 9 years ago, my sons and I have read and thoroughly loved Daddy Hug. We acted it out… We laughed, and we bonded.
Sadly, my 9-year-old passed away unexpectedly in February. This tragedy has left a tremendous hole in my heart as I can't give him any more Daddy Hugs.
I have set up a foundation in his honor. You can see details and our goals at www.jamesonsjoy.org and on Jameson's Joy on social media.
One of the projects I want to undertake is to provide the opportunity for people to purchase a copy of Daddy Hug, which will be stamped with our foundation, and then I provide a copy of the book to fathers of newborns. I want to help them connect with their kids.
'I want to help them connect with their kids.'
Dan and I speak the same language, which is why I have decided to support his work in honouring the life and legacy of his 9-year-old son, Jameson, and share the foundation’s Daddy Hug project here.
Reading the opening paragraph in Dan's email made my spine tingle. It amazes and humbles me to think (and discover first hand) that we are part of the lives of families around the world through the work we do.
To hear of this family laughing and bonding over Daddy Hug - that our book became part of a cherished routine - is terrifically satisfying; yet makes learning about the tragic loss of Jameson and the family's pain even sadder. Reading their story - getting the tiniest glimpse into Dan’s pain as he continues to do his best to carry on living - genuinely brought tears to my eyes.
As you can imagine, this was not an easy email to reply to.
I love the creative ways the family are exploring to honour Jameson's memory and work through their grief.
I love that Dan has stepped up to the plate and is making the project happen. That's a really admirable quality, particularly given the circumstances.
Daddy Strong comes to mind.
Dan Courtine again, from Jamesons Joy website:
There were three rules we had while reading [Daddy Hug].
Rule 1 was that we had to just BE together, be in the moment and enjoy it.
Rule 2 was that when we saw the moose on the opening pages we had to put our moose antler hands in our ears and MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSE as loud as we could. We scared mom many times with this part, but a rule is a rule.
And Rule 3 was that the snake page had to be read as quickly as possible.
(Dan and I may share a desire to help fathers connect with their kids, but we don't share an affinity for snakes!)
what makes Daddy Hug a successful picture book?
Simple rhyming couplets (great for reinforcing the concepts of adjectives and verbs)
It can be read very quickly (always good for when your kid is asking for just one more!)
It can be read very slowly (thanks to Jane's detailed art and her choice of animals).
It encourages conversation - when will the baby porcupines grow spikes? Are baby snails born with shells?
It ticks the educational box because of the diverse array of animals presented - old favourites as well as the more obscure (for example, porcupines and walruses).
It's FUN to read aloud!
Daddy Hug has always given my sons and I happiness together. And it's time to pay that forward. Jameson's Joy is proud to present a copy of Daddy Hug to fathers of young children. For a donation of $30, we will send a copy of Daddy Hug to fathers so they can enjoy a bond like no other. Just BE in the moment and read with your child.'
Over the last few years, I have been learning the importance of allowing yourself to just be in the moment. To try and focus on what is right there before my eyes and where possible to stop and appreciate it. Because as Dan's family know only too well, those moments do not last forever. But our memories can.
So back to the core purpose of My Life In Books - to help parents and carers make the kinds of connections that Dan most clearly did with his boys - using books as the glue. I have written of experiencing this deep intimacy myself as a child, particularly with my father, and like Dan, wish for others to experience that same joy.
Readers in the USA can support Jameson's Joy - and encourage fathers to BE in the moment with their children - by placing an order with them for a presentation copy of Daddy Hug.
What better way to celebrate fatherhood and start a lifelong journey together?
Email Dan at email@example.com indicating how many copies you want to pass forward, the dad's name and mailing address, and any other messages you wish to include.
Should you need any more convincing why reading with your children (by you dad or mum, grandparent, teacher, carer…) is a good thing, I'll leave you with the full excerpt from the opening quote:
When you read with your kid…[y]ou're not just reading them a story. You're holding their hand, opening a door, and showing them what the world is like.
If that introduction is too big, scary, or confusing, you're the one there with them, trying to explain what everything means. And, even if you don't know what everything means, you're there as their partner, saying, "Jeez, I don't know. Let's find out together."
That's a big deal. And, as a dad, that's something I want to be there for.
Daddy Hug by Tim Warnes, ill. by Jane Chapman (Harper Collins 2008)
Shortlisted - Booktrust Early Years Award (Best Book for Babies) 2008
Transforming Communities Through Acts of Kindness
Good to Read
In celebration of dads
Only My Dad and Me by Alyssa Satin Capucelli, ill. by Tiphanie Beake (HarperFestival 2003)
Just Like You by Jane Chapman (Little Tiger Press 2018)
The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman, ill. by Dave McKean (Bloomsbury 2004)
The Emperor's Egg by Martin Jenkins, ill. by Jane Chapman (Walker Books 1999)
Daddy Hug by Tim Warnes, ill. by Jane Chapman (HarperCollins 2008)