Between the lines: stories build bonds between father and child

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 10:51am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 June, 2014, 10:51am

My husband is great with children and has a good rapport with them. Nevertheless, hanging out with young ones isn't his idea of a relaxing and fun time.

Asked to pick between two weekend activities, nine times out of 10 he would choose the one that didn't involve children, neither our own nor those of our friends. He relishes weekends spent in the company of adults.

Even though my husband brought welcome balance to my weekends as I joined him in these activities, he often found himself apologising to hyper-parents for his "behaviour".

I consoled him by noting that there is no study to show that helicoptered kids, or kids with parents who are constantly present, grow up to be happier or more successful.

He found comfort in my summaries of the hundreds of parenting-related articles that I had read, many of which dissected this recent concept of parents existing for the sake of children.

While my husband's parenting views have not changed much from the time we brought home our first child, I can see that he is now enjoying spending more time around children as ours grow older. And through all this quality time spent together in harmony, each member of our family is beginning to see the developing father-child bond.

Froggy's Day with Dad is a laugh-aloud story that will appeal to toddlers. It details Father's Day for Froggy and his dad, in the same style as the other books in Jonathan London's popular Froggy series.

Anthony Browne's Gorilla, about a father who never has time for his daughter, will resonate with many Hong Kong dads. This beautifully presented story will make fathers everywhere put down their smartphones when they see how a child wishes for her dad's time and attention.

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish is also about a father who "doesn't pay much attention to anything". So while dad is reading his newspaper, the protagonist swaps him for his best friend's two goldfish, which he had been coveting.

Presented in the form of a graphic short story, this is a well-loved tale by Neil Gaiman, creator of the comic book series The Sandman. Gaiman is a prolific author who is able to transcend age groups and genres to find fans aged between five and 95.

For truth stranger than fiction, Martin Jenkins' The Emperor's Egg tells the true story of male emperor penguins in simple, engaging and sing-song language. The devotion of father penguins is shown through the emperor penguin breeding cycle in this award-winning natural history book.

After mother penguin lays her egg, father penguin stands around keeping the egg warm and protected for two months, in the bitter Antarctic cold.

Middle-school children who don't mind a little darkness and sadness will love The Mouse and his Child by Russell Hoban. Perfect for reading aloud, this masterpiece is about a mechanical father mouse and his son who are joined as a single clockwork toy. When their wind-up mechanism breaks, they are thrown out and torn apart.

They embark on a dangerous quest to return to the beautiful doll's house they once inhabited, and to become independent, that is, "self-winding". This book was the first full-length novel by Hoban, who is best known for his Frances the Badger series for young children.

Japanese company Sanrio made an animated feature film starring Peter Ustinov, and the Royal Shakespeare Company recently presented its stage adaptation of this classic.

Fathers who worry that The Mouse and his Child is too violent for their children should just read this magical tale for themselves. It is full of memorable characters and philosophy. A heart-warming affirmation of the tender love between father and child, it may remind fathers of their own fathers.

Annie Ho is board chairwoman of Bring Me a Book Hong Kong, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving children's literacy by reading aloud to them. Visit


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