2 Picture Books About Kids, Dads, and Cars

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Mitchell's License and My Side of the CarMitchell's License and My Side of the Car

Candlewick Press sent me two picture books this past week that would any young (or old) car enthusiast. I’d say something like “just in time for Father’s Day!” but they’ve actually been out since late April, and they’re really more for the kids than the dads. But they’re about fathers interacting with their kids, and both involve cars (but in different ways).

They’re not just for car-lovers, though: I think these books would be great for any kid who likes stories about spending time with Dad.

Mitchell's License by Hallie Durand and Tony FucileMitchell's License by Hallie Durand and Tony Fucile

First up is Mitchell’s License, written by Hallie Durand and illustrated by Tony Fucile. Inspired by her husband’s “Remote-Control Dad” game with their kids, Durand wrote about a little boy who isn’t interested in going to bed until his dad suggests that he could drive there. The dad, of course, is the car, and the images of Mitchell inspecting the “tires” and checking the “engine” are terrific. Tony Fucile has done character design and animation for Disney and Pixar, and his illustrations have a sort of retro feel to them, reminiscent of the opening credits of Monsters, Inc., with a just-slightly-sketchy crayon look to them. And, as you might expect of somebody who worked on The Incredibles, Fucile is a master at capturing the expressions of Mitchell and his dad, who submits to all sorts of abuse in the service of bedtime.

I absolutely adore this book, and even though it’s about a boy and his dad, I think any dad-shoulder-riding child would get a kick out of it. My daughters (who are getting a bit large for the shoulder rides) enjoyed the book, too.

My one caveat: if you’ve got young, Mitchell-sized kids, I guarantee you that they’ll want to try out their own remote-control dad (or mom), and Mitchell isn’t exactly a gentle driver. He mashes his dad’s nose for the horn, and yanks on the ears or hair for braking and reverse. I expect that your own kids might try the same tactics if you let them.

Still, it’s an excellent book and the illustrations are exuberant. All in all, a lovely book about a father and son having fun together.

My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer and Jules FeifferMy Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer and Jules Feiffer

Next up is My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by the inimitable Jules Feiffer. I’ve always loved Jules’ illustrations, which are sketchy and look simple but actually require an expertise that only comes from decades of practice. The story is quite funny: as Sadie and her father drive to the zoo, her father points out that it is raining. “Not on my side of the car,” Sadie replies. As the rain gets worse and worse on the dad’s side of the car, Katie’s side remains dry and sunny, with folks putting on sunglasses and going to the zoo, or watering their lawns, or eating ice cream.

It’s a very simple premise but the combination of words and illustrations makes it more and more absurd as the story goes on, with the pouring rain making a perfect line down the center of the car.

Kate Feiffer is Jules’ daughter, and this book was inspired by a real-life event from when Kate was younger. There’s a short conversation between father and daughter at the end of the book which is quite funny. I’d also read an interview with Kate where she related the story of driving to a wildlife sanctuary with her father, and when he told her it was raining it still looked bright and fair outside her window. It became a long-running joke that whenever they disagreed on something they’d use the phrase “my side of the car.” (It reminds me of my own four-year-old who, when she disagreed with something my wife had said, responded: “Well, maybe in Pretendland …”)

The second book isn’t quite so much about cars, even though most of the story takes place in one — it’s more about the way we see the world and the stubbornness of small children. Jules’ illustrations really make this book, and it’s fun that it’s from a father-and-daughter team.

Regardless of whether you’re shopping for a Father’s Day gift for your favorite dad, these two are certainly wonderful books for kids who love their dads.

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