Interview with Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston who are the ultimate author / illustrator team, with 3 amazing picture books together. The Fixit Man, At the end of Holyrood Lane and This is my Dad, all with important messages, written and illustrated with heart and emotion that draw the reader in.
Dimity and Nicky share how they collaborate, and how they see picture books, including their latest book, This is my Dad
This is My Dad celebrates families of all shapes and sizes in a heartfelt, beautifully illustrated story that parents and carers will love sharing with their children.
Most of the time, Leo loves Show and Tell at school. But when his teacher announces that next up is Tell Us About Your Dad Day, his tummy ties into knots and he tries to disappear into the corner of the classroom. His classmates can’t wait but all Leo can think is … ‘how can I celebrate someone I’ve never met?’
Leo is an only child living with his mother, and has never known a father figure. His mother is his hero: as a children’s author, she spends most of her time battling monsters and creating awesome new worlds! When Tell Us About Your Dad Day comes around, Leo worries that he won’t have anything to present to his class. After fruitlessly searching high and low for clues about his father, he realises that he already knows someone cool, courageous and clever – someone who’s not his dad, but is his everything.
This is My Dad is a timely, important and heart-warming look at modern family dynamics. It highlights that families come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all worthy of celebration. With one in four children in the UK living with a single parent, and 90% of those parents being a woman, Leo’s family situation will resonate with millions of children, and will provide a valuable insight for millions more.
Dimity Powell writes for children because she would secretly love to be one again. To support this fantasy she produces sometimes silly, sometimes sad, always sparkly stories for school magazines, anthologies, online apps as creative digital content, and as junior novels and picture books.
Many of Dimity’s stories have been shortlisted or won awards including her digital narrative, The Chapel of Unlove for the Story City App, shortlisted for the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards 2016. Two of her picture books feature on the Kindergo App and appear as part of Virgin Australia’s Inflight Children’s Entertainment Program.
PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? filled the Christmas stockings of children everywhere for the first time in 2012. The Fix-It Man, also illustrated by Nicky Johnston, debuted in 2017, and At the End of Holyrood Lane, again illustrated by Nicky Johnston, debuted in 2018.
Dimity is also Managing Editor of highly respected children’s literature website Kids’ Book Review, and a Books in Homes role model. Her past adventures include skiing the French Alps, Kombiing around a quarter of Australia, spotting manatees in Florida, and getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle. She’s tried a few grown-up jobs but thinks it’s more fun writing for children now because she believes that great stories — like ice-cream — are life essentials.
Nicky Johnston is an educator, speaker and author/illustrator of children’s books. She enjoys every aspect of creating books for kids, especially illustration. Nicky’s illustration style is often described as whimsical, emotive, soft and expressive. She is passionate about promoting emotional resilience in children and raising awareness of mental health issues.
Nicky’s love of teaching sees her busy with school visits to share her journey of becoming an author and illustrator, and to show children the process of creating a book using excerpts of her work. She also presents at workshops and conferences. As well as teaching, Nicky works from home writing and illustrating in her art studio, and has contributed to 16 books including At the End of Holyrood Lane (EK Books, 2018), The Fix-It Man (EK Books 2017), Grandma Forgets (EK Books, 2017, with Paul Russell), Saying Goodbye to Barkley (EK Books, 2019) and Upside-Down Friday (EK Books, 2021).
Literacy, Families and Learning
“A wonderful and heart-warming story that children will love and those who don’t know their dads will find helpful.” Click here to read
“This story explores themes of family and relationships, creativity, and imagination. These messages are reflected not only through the text but also through Nicky Johnston’s warm and inviting illustrations.” Click here to read
Love Four Learning
“Important and heartwarming looks at different family dynamics and structures that aren’t often represented.” Click here to read
Primary English Teachers Association Australia
“This beautifully simple story is an important addition to all primary school libraries. It serves as a poignant reminder that each child in the classroom has their own unique home life. As educators it is critical that we ensure that all children have the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the literature that we share. This book would be ideal for sharing around Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but would be equally as valuable at any stage of the year for celebrating families of all shapes and sizes” Click here to read more
South Sydney Herald
“ This Is My Dad might well fill a gap in your home or school library. It’s not a trophy – but it is a tribute – and one that should help children and parents value the prize that is their version of family..” Click here to read
“This is a great story. @ekbooksforkids puts out so many thoughtful books like this. And I honestly think it fills a very important gap among all the wonderful books celebrating moms and dads that we pull out around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I truly think you can put this one on your shelf for either holiday.”
One More Page Podcast
“ Very relatable with an ending that I think might have a few people welling up.” Click here to listen
Reading With A Chance of Tacos – Ken Williams
“The book resonated with me. I am an only child, I was brought up with my mother, I guess playing mum and dad … very similar story to Leo. When i was at school people would say ‘where is your Dad?’, and my mum was my dad. I would have loved a book like this when I was going through primary school, I would have said, ‘Hey look Leo is me!”
Emma Grey, award-winning author of “I Don’t Have Time’
Leo has never known his father, so ‘This is my Dad’ day at school has his stomach tied in knots. While working out what to do about it, he discovers he already has a parent with all the heroic qualities he imagines his absent father to hold.
This gorgeous picture book by Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston celebrates single-parent families. I wish I’d had this book when I was widowed at 42 with a 5-year-old. Whether they’re subjected to card-making for Father’s or Mother’s day, or just the endless references to ‘mum and dad’ in the classroom, children from sole-parent families face a barrage of reminders at school that they are ‘different’.
This book serves as a prompt for important discussions about the varied shapes of modern families. It’s a reminder that parents raising children alone due to death, divorce or choice can be superheroes. It encourages children to focus less on what they lack and more on what they have. And it gives a certain type of family long-overdue representation.
I love that this story covers such a sensitive topic: What do children who are being raised in a single-caregiver family do with assignments that ask them to talk about the other carer?
The Bottom Shelf
“a great heads-up for teachers but also a book which appears to be for littlies but which can enable older students to examine their own perspectives at arm’s length, perhaps even reflect on their own situations and how that has shaped them.”
“The story explores this family dynamic experienced by millions of children, in a positive and creative way. It tells the story of Leo, whose normal love of show and tell turns to dread when he is asked to talk about his father, who he has never known. ‘How can I celebrate someone I’ve never met?’ he worries.”
Kids’ Book Review
“Busts through typical family stereotypes and conventions in all of the best ways.”
This is My Dad is a sweet celebration of solo parenting.
What book next?
Many children have one parent or caregiver who has lots of loved ones rolled into one. Mum/Dad or Dad/Mum. Grandma/Mum/Dad or a plethora of other possibilities. Leo’s realisation is wonderful.
Click here to read more
In The Good Books
“ This book acknowledges single parents and the important roles they play to their children. It celebrates families of every shape and size, and highlights the fact that whilst the presence of a male role model is helpful to a child’s upbringing and well-being, it is not always possible or realistic, and there are many other carers that are equally as worthy of celebrating”
Click here to read more
Your Kids Next Read Podcast
Teacher librarian and reviewer Megan Daley notes there are many children, including her own, who do not have the ‘normal’ family structure. She says “the story is a really lovely exploration of family dynamics”, telling as it does the tale of Leo, who finds an ingenious solution to “bring your dad to school day”, even though he has never known his father. Click here to listen
The Book Witch
“The important thing is to have someone. It doesn’t matter who they are, as long as they are somebody to you.”
Head of Library and Research, The Lakes College, North Lakes
In a world filled with worries, this book shows that you must sometimes think outside the box to help make sense of what’s around you. Leo, the young protagonist in “This is my dad” LOVES show and tell, but the latest topic is making him worried. The excitement of “Tell us about your Dad Day!” caused heightened emotions and anxious feelings for Leo, who lives with his mum in a single parent family. “This is my dad” needs to be in every library, to support our young people making sense of their world.”