Friday, May 3, 2024

Meet some Super Animal Dads

Superdads! Animal Heroes 
By Heather Lang & Jamie Harper 
32 pages; ages 3-7
‎Candlewick, 2024

theme: animal families, STEM

Bringing up babies in the wild is a mighty big job. Animal moms usually get the credit since they’re the ones who do most of the parenting. But some dads take the lead…

Who are these unsung dad heroes? And what do they do? Some, like the brown kiwi, incubate eggs and keep them safe until they hatch. In fact, there’s lots of dads who care for eggs: water bugs, seahorses, and frogs. Some dads hide their young by building a shelter or hiding them under his wings. Dads feed their young and some play with them and teach them life skills, such as hunting or singing.

What I like about this book:

Last year I reviewed Supermoms! so I was really looking forward to a book about dads. Heather and Jamie did not disappoint.

I like the way this author/illustrator duo presents the caretaking tasks dads do as superpowers, from child care and feeding to defending and teaching. And I like that the featured dads come from a diverse list of animals that include fish, amphibians, insects, birds, and mammals.  The cartoon illustrations are fun – like when the wolf pups play tug-of-war with dad – and the animal dialog gives readers an opportunity to stretch their role-playing skills.

And, there is Back Matter! One spread gives each superdad a chance to share a fun fact about his superpower. There’s also a list of books and online resources for curious kids to explore.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher* (full permission at bottom)

I had so much fun reading this book that I just had to ask Heather and Jamie a couple of questions:

Me: Hi Heather. I want to know how you found so many cool examples of Superdads. Can you talk about how you explored your research?

Heather: We knew from our Supermoms! research that moms do most of the parenting in the wild, so finding superdads would be more challenging. But luckily Jamie and I both love a good treasure hunt!

We began with a small list of remarkable dads that we’d discovered while working on Supermoms! Some of those came from a field trip we took to see the Museum of Science’s Nature’s Superheroes exhibit in Boston. Next, we searched the web, books, science articles, blogs, even social media. We watched webcams, YouTube videos made by nature enthusiasts, and many documentaries, including PBS Nature episodes. 

Along the way we reached out to experts for ideas, to confirm facts, and to clarify details. Sometimes this resulted in us cutting an animal. For example, contrary to what you might read, there is no real evidence that male bats nurse their young! I think reaching out to experts to fact check and ask questions is always one of our favorite research steps. Often our scientists share rich details we can add to the text or use in our back matter, and their enthusiasm is always contagious.

With a small pool of dads to choose from we worked to develop categories of parenting behavior. We landed on five: incubation, making a home, feeding, protection, and play. Then we played around with different combinations of animals in each category. We asked ourselves whether the facts were sufficiently different? Did they show a variety of parenting strategies and ecosystems? Which could lead to the funniest images and speech bubbles? What would look the best? It was a complex puzzle, but perhaps made easier by the fact that there were fewer dads to choose from. 

Me: This one’s for Jamie. What goes into deciding how to present illustrations on the page? In Superdads, pages are divided into panels, like a comic book. 

Jamie: Using a comic-book style was a new experiment for me, and a fun one because it gave me the opportunity to show an action happening over a period of time and not just in a single moment. In a way, moving from one panel to the next provides a pause, in the same way turning the page does. Those pauses allow for so much play like creating a surprise, exaggerating an emotion, extending the story, or simply allowing the reader to take a breath. It’s tricky, that’s for sure, but it gives you lots of extra tools when illustrating a book. I got to practice using multiple panels in Supermoms!, which let me loose to challenge myself further when making Superdads. I do wonder… will it be tough to return to illustrating a book, that doesn’t have this “comic book” format?!?

Me: Enquiring minds want to know - Is there a Superkids book in the works? 

Heather & Jamie: What a terrific idea! Actually, we do have some superkids in our next book in the series . . . Supersquads! (coming in 2025). Making these books together has been one giant collaboration, so writing a book about animals that team up in the wild seemed like the perfect choice!

Beyond the Books:

Observe some animal superdads. Some of the easiest to watch are birds. You might see them collecting nesting material or defending their territory by singing and chasing other birds. Do they help keep eggs warm? And can you catch them bringing home take-out meals for the chicks?

Do you have a parent, grandparent, or close relative with “superpowers?” What are they?

Think about the kinds of superpowers you have. You might have super-friendship abilities, a super-imagination, or you’re super-creative. (I once thought I could fly if I practiced. It didn’t work…)

Heather and Jamie are members of #STEAMTeam2024. You can find out more about Heather at her website, Learn more about Jamie at her website, They both are active on Instagram, Twitter, and on Facebook.

Today we’re joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

* SUPERDADS! ANIMAL HEROES. Text copyright © 2024 by Heather Lang and Jamie Harper. Illustrations copyright © 2024 by Jamie Harper. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


  1. I just watched a webinar about how the components of poetry and the panels of comics are similar (Laura Shovan was the presenter), and Jamie's comments about what panels do echo what Laura said. It's interesting to think about.

    1. I'd never thought about that: poetry and comic panels. But it makes sense.

  2. What a great fun way to bring nonfiction to kids.

    1. I agree, Robin. Humor can grab a kid's attention and pull them into science without their even knowing it!