A sweet new picture book about a girl who loves having her dads read stories to her (especially the one about her adoption) is uplifting and empowering.
“My daddies are amazing,” begins Adventures with My Daddies, by Gareth Peter (Peachtree Publishing). “They’re funny, kind, and smart.” The child narrator (who reads as female) continues, “And when they read me stories … exciting journeys start.” The book continues in gentle rhymes as we hear of the stories they tell, of dragons and treasure, dinosaurs, spaceships, and hot air balloons. The illustrations by Garry Parsons show each fanciful scene, with the girl and her dads dressed appropriately for each one. Their dog is a silent but amusing companion throughout.
Her daddies’ favorite story, though, is “the one that brought them me,” and here we see a two-page spread of a photo album titled “My Adoption Story,” with family photos and other clippings showing the girl with her dads and grandmothers. Peter is the queer, adoptive dad of two himself.
The next page shows the girls’ friends and their parents showing up for a meal together as we read, “Some children have two mommies, and some, a mom and dad. But I have SUPER daddies! Who chose me . . . I’m SO glad.”
Her dads aren’t “the best at everything,” she knows, but she doesn’t care. They’re always there for her to make her smile or chase her fears away. In fact, they are “the world’s best king and king” (perhaps a nod to the 2003 picture book about two princes who fall in love, King & King). Storytime with them, she says, is her favorite thing.
This is a lovely and cheerful book that manages to both make the dads’ queerness incidental to the tale, while also offering representation of two-dad and adoptive families. The lesson about different kinds of families is there, but not dwelt on. One dad is Black, the other is White, and the child is a shade between them both.
The only scene that may give readers pause is when the dads are imagining themselves as king and king. The family sits on a cushion-strewn sofa, reading a book, with three people in the background in clothes reminiscent of India, one playing a sitar. Distant buildings also evoke India. That’s fine—reading books about other lands and cultures is to be encouraged. Yet while the Black dad is wearing a crown and armor that feels European, the White dad wears a turban with a jewel and a high-necked long coat that looks like a Nehru jacket. Perhaps the child has Indian ancestry herself (author Peters, though White, is British, and there are many British people of South Asian ancestry) and the White dad is trying to show her that their storytime worlds can include that part of her heritage, too. Perhaps the story is so captivating that he can’t help but put himself in the shoes (and other clothes) of one of the characters. Still, some may feel this is appropriating—I point it out so you can do your own evaluation.
Overall, however, this is a lovely book about everyday life and extraordinary imaginings in a family that just happens to have two dads. Many children with two dads, adoptive parents, or who simply enjoy storytimes will appreciate seeing themselves reflected.