Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a Father’s Day freebie.
Best Fictional Fathers in Children’s/YA Books
It’s surprisingly hard to find good fathers in fiction, even (or maybe especially) in children’s fiction. By good fathers, I mean fathers who are not absent, harsh, or abusive. But with the help of my daughter and a few other family members, we managed to come up with eight. In no particular order, here are books and series featuring men who truly qualify as “good fathers.”
The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall. To paraphrase my daughter Robin, Mr. Penderwick is fantastic, completely supportive of his girls, and he keeps coming out with Latin quotations. He’s a really good father all around, and handles being a single parent of four girls extremely well. He supports their interests including science, math, sports, and writing. When two of his daughters get into real trouble, he’s disappointed in them, but he sees that they feel terrible about it so he doesn’t make a huge thing of it. And when he remarries, he doesn’t differentiate between his own children and his new stepson, but loves them all equally.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Anne may only have had Matthew for a short time, but in that time, he made her feel truly loved and wanted. Matthew’s love was quiet and unconditional, and it remained, I believe, one of the foundations of Anne’s life forever after.
The Melendy series by Elizabeth Enright. I almost left Mr. Melendy out because he is not always home (notably in book two, The Four-Story Mistake.) But when he is home, he’s always caring and supportive of his children, and does his best as a single parent. And when he takes on add an orphaned boy to his family, it’s clear he will be just as much a father to him as to his biological children (in Now We Are Five.)
Beauty by Robin McKinley. Beauty’s father loves and believes in all three of his daughters. And he’s a well-grounded person; while he is hit hard by the loss of his ships and wealth, he never loses a sense of who he is, nor how blessed he is to have his daughters. He only accedes to Beauty’s request to take his place at the Beast’s castle because she is so adamant.
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pa is caring but firm (and even stern when Laura has been naughty.) It’s clear he loves his family and they love him. (Note: Wilder idealizes her real father in these books; she downplays his restlessness and makes their frequent moves seem like adventures, not the difficult uprooting they must have been.)
The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Arthur Weasley is sometimes absent-minded and definitely eccentric even by the standards of the wizarding world, with his keen interest in Muggle technology and culture, but he’s also a very good father in all the ways in which it counts — particularly in terms of love and acceptance. Between them, he and Molly raise a family of strong, loyal and highly individual offspring who know their own minds and are (for the most part) determined to side with the right and good. That loyalty, both to family and to what is right, is what makes Percy’s defection so painful to them — and even Percy comes round in the end.
Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge. Initially, the Linnet children think their Uncle Ambrose is stern, dry, and unloving, but they soon discover that while he can be stern and holds them to a high standard, he has a softer side which he keeps well-hidden. In fact, he makes a very good parent once he gets used to no longer being a crusty old batchelor.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This is another book I almost left out, because Dr. Murray is very much absent through much of the book. But his love and presence loom large in Meg’s memories, and it’s her longing for him that sends her across the galaxy to rescue him. He comes across as a good, loving father through those memories, as well as in his actions once the children find him.
Five on a Merry-Go-Round by Marie McSwigan. It’s the Great Depression, and Mr. Sloan has been ill and lost his job. So he and his family head south for a job, only to find no job and no available housing. Mr. Sloan worries about his inability to provide for his family, but he doesn’t give up, drink, take his frustration out on his children, or disappear. With great resourcefulness, he and his family turn an abandoned merry-go-round into a home and figure out how to live there.
Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlen. Like Anne, Thor doesn’t have his father figure for long; Baslim is killed at the end of the first section of the book. But before that, over the course of several years, he provides the orphaned, runaway slave Thor with a home and a sense of stability. Baslim teaches Thor not only to read but to think independently, while instilling in him integrity, values, and a sense of honor. Though he is never demonstrative, Baslim’s love and care for Thor are obvious, and later on, Thor recognizes their relationship as one of father and son.
The Paddington series by Michael Bond. Mr. Brown loves his children. And though he’s initially reluctant to add a bear to the household (who wouldn’t be?), he eventually accepts Paddington as a member of the family. He’s often played for laughs, but he’s a pretty good father all the same.
HONORABLE MENTION (absent fathers, or those only peripheral to the story):
- The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper.) Will Stanton’s father doesn’t come into the story much, but Will and most of his siblings are pretty well-adjusted and clearly loved by their parents.
- The Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene.) Mr. Drew is a pretty good father. He’s not usually involved in Nancy’s sleuthing, but he doesn’t stop her and seems proud of her intelligence. Given when these books were written, the amount of freedom and trust he gives to Nancy is a little surprising.
- The Protector of the Small series (Tamora Pierce). Keladry of Mindelan’s father doesn’t come into the books often, but he’s totally supportive of his daughter’s desire to become the first female knight in centuries.