Most countries follow the United States tradition and celebrate Father’s Day on the 3rd Sunday in June, however New Zealand and Australia celebrate Father’s Day on the 1st Sunday in September. … So what better time than now to showcase a beautiful book for Fathers than “A Father’s Love” by Hannah Holt and illustrated by Yee Von Chan.
Many of you will remember Hannah’s debut book The Diamond and the Boy and the blog post she shared with me here showing her many ways of working out and finding just the right theme and opening sentences to be able to make such a unique and interesting book.
It is always a joy as a fellow critique buddy and friend when Hannah sends a story whether it’s a new one or another revision on a work in progress. Hannah not only preservers but also allows herself to open up to options, changes and new creative ideas and thoughts. Whether it is a change of animal, or animal to human, or male to female, Hannah is not afraid to try different approaches and put her characters in different positions and situations to get the best story. Hannah is a perfectionist in mining for heart, and also where rhyming and rhythm is concerned. As a prose writer I delight in not only reading her work but also in the lyrical infusion she brings to my works. If you are lucky enough to have Hannah as a mentor, be open to her thoughts and processes which I know will help your work shine. Dedicated to detail Hannah has kindly shared below her thoughts (in blue) and processes for producing those all important first lines… in a tribute to Fathers everywhere.
A FATHER’S LOVE: Nine Different Openings
Like most of my work, A Father’s Love, took many revisions. It started out as a love song to my twin babies, evolved into a general “Mommy Love Book”, and finally landed as a book appreciating dads. The following nine openings follow that evolution.
I hope that seeing my imperfect tries and clumsy early explorations help you as you revise! Happy writing!
Some twins rock to sleep on ocean waves. (manatee calves)
Some take their naps in forest caves. (bears cubs)
But wet or dry, the land or sea,
Twins and mom three.
At this point, I’m not worried about rhyme or meter yet. I’m still shaping the idea. Hmm, do I really want my opening to be a math problem? No. This concept lacks resonance. Next!
Some twins sleep under ocean waves. (manatee calves)
Some take their naps in forest caves. (bears cubs)
But wet or dry, in woods or seas,
Mommies love their twin babies.
The rhythm and meter are still wonky. For example, babies and seas don’t rhyme. However, I have a better idea of the heart of my story.
When mommies bring new babies home,
most come back with one hat and comb.
But sometimes mommies get the news
That babies also come in twos.
And who has babies by the twos?
Turn the page and read the clues…
I briefly flirted with the idea of this being a lift-the-flap book. Each page had a riddle and flaps would reveal “what twins?” This was the opening of that approach. Ultimately the concept didn’t work very well. Next!
Some babies sleep beneath the waves. (manatee calves)
Some take their naps in forest caves. (bear cubs)
But soft brown paws or sleek gray fins,
Mommy loves you, babykins.
In an attempt to make this story more universal, I abandon the twin concept and made it about all moms and babies. However, I’m still clinging to “twin” sounding end-rhymes—as you can see by my terrible made-up rhyme here. I had to let go of my darlings to move forward. ONWARD!
Underneath the ocean waves (sea horses and wolves)
and in the heart of forest caves,
Daddies tend as babies sleep.
A father’s love runs fierce and deep.
As long as I’m switching things up, why don’t I make this story about DADs instead of MOMs? There are so many more mom books than dad books after all! I’m still just exploring this concept, but I have landed on my ultimate direction.
In the whirling, swirling white,
a Papa snuggles baby tight. [emperor penguin]
With feathers fluffed and toe on toe,
a father’s love is soft as snow.
This one needs tinkering, but it’s not bad. However, the book as a whole is missing something. Wouldn’t it be better with an introduction before diving into specific animals?
Dads come in all shapes and stripes…
The big. The bold. The silent types. (zebra) (nighthawk) (rabbits)
Although each Dad has his own flare, (jacana)
there’s something special all dads share.
I’ve settled on starting with an introduction, but I’m not loving the flare/share pairing. It doesn’t really capture the heart of this story. Also the rhythm of the first line needs some help.
Papas come in many stripes…
The big. The bold. The silent types. [zebra] [nighthawk] [rabbits]
Beneath the ground [rabbit] or high above [nighthawk],
each father’s heart comes filled with love. [zebra]
THIS IS IT! I’ve finally found the direction, heart, and start of my story. However, zebras aren’t awesome dads and rabbits don’t spend much energy raising young. Also nighthawks are a lesser known animal and don’t create a strong opening hook. While I’ve got my beginning, I still need to nail down the animals in the story.
Papas come in many stripes—
The big. The bold. The silent types. [lion] [wolf] [seahorse]
Beneath the ground or high above, [fox / falcon]
each father’s heart comes filled with love.
This is the final text. You can see it’s almost identical to the one before (just a minor punctuation change). However, I’ve finally found all the animals I want to use and paired it with the text. Huzzah!
A Father’s Love
Written by: Hannah Holt
Illustrated by: Yee Von Chan
Published by: Philomel Books 2019
Age: 3 -7 years
From Amazon: Throughout the animal kingdom, in every part of the world, fathers love and care for their babies. This book takes readers around the globe and across the animal kingdom, showcasing the many ways fathers have of demonstrating their love. Whether it’s a penguin papa snuggling with his baby in the frosty white snow, a lion dad playing with his cub in a yellow field, or a seahorse father protecting his young inside his pouch in the deep blue ocean, we see that a father’s love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
Why I like this: With gorgeous sweet illustrations that bring the love between dads and babies to vivid, colourful life, this book is a celebration of the special bond that a father shares with his children. I loved how the marmoset and lion keep one eye open on their young even while they sleep. In the back of the book is the map showing some of the places where the animals depicted in this book are found and also a write up of each animal. Great for school projects, or fun family adventures this book would also be a sweet bedtime addition. A beautiful treasure for every Dad any time of the year.
Thank you Hannah for your honest, candid look at the way you approach revisions and the beautiful book that has resulted.
Resources: A Father’s Love can be found on Amazon… https://www.amazon.com/Fathers-Love-Hannah-Holt/dp/0525514201
Meet Hannah here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD5csjzPg2k
and Hannah’s blog… https://hannahholt.com/books