Top Picks for Single Dads

Updated 9/9/2012…see below!

Over the past few years I’ve come across a few different books, movies and songs that have really resonated with me and my role as a single father. Here’s a list to get us started…send in your suggestions!

Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

 I read this book many, many times as a kid — and loved it. The father is nicely dimensioned; he is principled, stern, affectionate and creative, and even has a little vice that gets them all into trouble.

Appropriate for all ages.

Kick-Ass

This movie changed the way I viewed my relationship with Ruby. Although not necessarily central to the plot, the father and daughter have a tight bond that is almost exclusionary: it’s just of the two of them, working together as a team. Training Ruby to be a foul-mouthed ninja assassin isn’t really in the parenting plan, but creating an extraordinary partnership based on affection, respect for each others’ talents, and hard work sounds fantastic.

Not appropriate for kids (language and violence).

Dinosaurs by Tim Rogers

I first heard this song just last night. It’s an autobiographical sketch of a single rock ‘n roll Dad in his shitty apartment with his fridge full of beer, singing about his daughter’s love of dinosaurs. Perfect.

The first light that peeks out in the night sky
Is there for you to wish by
Or is that just our little thing?

I ain’t got a big house
It’s just us two and it’s a crowd
And your Mama’s cookin’ still top of the town
But I’ll try to get it right

I’ll just put it to ya
Is my voice still familiar
The fridge is stacked sky-high
But if not to be tonight
Then please say some time soon.

Your dinosaurs: I keep them in my top drawer
You and I know what they’re there for
They’re there for cold or rainy Sunday nights

When no-one understands all your ramblings
The triceratops she understands things us humans can’t abide.

Just a word in your ear
There’s more than just beer
The fridge is stacked sky-high
If not to be tonight
If not to be tonight
If not to be tonight
Then please say sometime soon

Appropriate for all ages.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

 I grabbed this novel from the kids’ section of a local bookstore. I was looking for some strong female characters for Ruby, and the short blurb next to this book seemed to offer what I was looking for. But, serendipitously, I hit the jackpot with this one. Not only are there four young girls (ages 4 to 12) who are each amazingly polite, strong-willed, capable, and talented — but they are being raised by a single Dad. And in this book, the Dad starts (reluctantly) dating… giving me a good introduction to this topic for Ruby. This book is written for an older audience in mind (more fifth-graders than kindergarteners) and some of the relationship nuances are over Ruby’s head, but this is a fun read.

As an added bonus, this is the second book in a continuing (currently three) series of books. This book stands perfectly well on its own, and I imagine we’ll be continuing on with this family when we’re done with it.

Appropriate for school-age kids.

Stingray Sam by Cory McAbee

Stingray Sam was commissioned for the Sundance Film Festival and designed for casual streaming to everything from phones to theaters.  It has definite b-movie production values but don’t let that fool you: the music is where it’s at.  When I first heard Lullaby Song I leaned over to my friend with tears in my eyes and whispered: “this song is perfect.”

This song made it onto Ruby’s night-time lullaby CD, but she always asks me to skip it — the guitar part is “too jazzy”.

And since our relationships with our children’s mothers isn’t always perfect, here’s a little catharsis in the form of the Peg-Legged Father (also from the Stingray Sam movie). Shum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum-mum!

The movie is appropriate for older kids; these two songs are fine for everyone.

Update 9/9/2012

Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren

I didn’t think anything would ever unseat my devotion to Danny, but Ronia has stolen my heart. This is my new favorite children’s novel. The lead character, Ronia, is a little girl living in the middle ages. She is strong and capable and has a rich internal emotional life. Both parents are in the story, but it is her relationship with her father that is central to it. A perfect story for strong girls and the obstinate fathers who love them.

Appropriate for all ages.