6 Awesome Middle Grade Dads

In honor of Father’s Day, lets celebrate our favorite middle grade dads, whether they be biological, adoptive, or living only in our memories. Many of us have a special bond with or memory of our dads, which has forever shaped us. My own Dad takes a lot of pride in doing things himself, and as I’ve grown older I find myself appreciating those same traits. He is also really great at backing a motorhome into any size campsite. These middle grade novels all feature special relationships with fathers, be they god, mortal or somewhere in between. No matter who they are, or what they do, let’s just all agree that we’re pretty lucky to have these guys in our lives.

The Hidden Oracle (B&N Exclusive Edition) (The Trials of Apollo Series #1), by Rick Riordan
Zeus is the father of Apollo, who just happens to now be trapped in the body of a regular New York City kid. That, on its own, is amazing and inspiring and everything that a dad/son story should be. Parents aren’t always easy people to get along with, I admit it, but when your dad happens to be the head honcho of all Greek gods, the stakes are that much higher. In another wonderful series from Rick Riordan (you’ve heard of Percy Jackson, perhaps? Magnus Chase, maybe?) kids pull out all the stops to save the world, prove their worth, and earns some serious brownie points for their otherworldly parents. Zeus is no one to mess with, and he knows it! Plus, he gives Dad Bods a good name.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II, by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
This whole series is jam packed with awesome dads, and The Cursed Child is set to be another great addition. Fans get reintroduced to Harry and Ron, this time as fathers to young Albus and Rose, who are embarking on their first year at Hogwarts. With their own awesome examples of fatherhood (Arthur Weasley and James Potter), as well the slightly reckless influences of Sirius Black and Remus Lupin over their childhoods, it will be fun for fans to see what kind of fathers these two have become. The even more pressing question may be: what kind of father is Draco, and does Scorpius follow in the Malfoy family footsteps.

Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi
In this classic story, Pinocchio lets his mischievous ways lead him astray from his loving adopted father, Geppetto (with more rule breaking and adventures than the movie, and also more heart and more love between Pinocchio and Geppetto). Readers also get a chance to think on what makes a family: is it birth, or is it unreserved love, or some combination? Pinocchio eventually learns to behave, attains some much needed-bravery, and finds that the one person who has always been true to him is his very own father.

The Little House series (9-Book Boxed Set), by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garth Williams
Pa, father to Laura Ingalls, is the perfect example of a pioneer days dad. He works his tail off all day in the the fields, or goes hunting, or sugaring, but he still has the time to teach his kids the life skills they need to survive on the frontier. Laura lovingly remembers all the nights he played the fiddle, the careful way he did his farm work, and the bravery he showed even when things got tough. Whether they are out riding horses, taking their first train ride, or raising the walls of a new home, Pa is absolutely a guy who should be celebrated on Father’s Day—but he definitely doesn’t need a tie, or a mug with golf jokes on it.

Song of the Deep, by Brian Hastings
In this soon to be released book (and video game!) twelve-year-old Merryn lives with her father, who is a deep sea fisherman. After a terrible storm, Merryn worries that he is lost at sea. Thanks to the courage and imagination that her father fostered in her, she builds her own submarine to find him. While traveling the ocean, she learns that her father’s many deep-sea legends just might be true, and also that she is stronger, braver, and smarter than she ever believed. Sometimes a father’s love, support, and encouragement can send us out on the most amazing journeys.

Captain of the Ship (American Girl Beforever Series: Caroline #1), by Kathleen Ernst, Juliana Kolesova, and Michael Dworkin
The American Girl books always have great, multidimensional relationships between their parents and their kids. Whether it is Molly’s dad being deployed during the war, Kit’s dad trying to work through the Depression, or Addy worrying about her dad as he escapes slavery, there is no shortage of important fathers. One of the most standout dads has to be Caroline’s father, the proud ship builder who is taken hostage in 1812. Caroline is so inspired by her father’s love of sailing and his ship building business that she can’t help by stray back to Lake Ontario at every opportunity. She braves the lake, and the British, in an attempt to rescue him, all because of their strong, reciprocal love.

What stories do you love to share with your dads?

Originally Published with Barnes and Noble

6 Things You Should Never Say to a Harry Potter Fan

Harry Potter fans take their love of all things wizarding pretty seriously, so when a Muggle questions their devotion, don’t be surprised if they get a tad prickly. Whether you are a member of the fandom or not, the staying power—and magic—of Harry Potter cannot be denied. And with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child debuting in London this July, the first film in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them trilogy hitting theaters this fall, and the opening of the Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter in April, there are now so many more opportunities to fall in love with the Boy Who Lived. For Muggles unsure of how to talk to a Potter fan during the upcoming excitement, we’ve collected are a few phrases that you probably shouldn’t open with.

Aren’t those books for kids?”

Is the suggested age range the Harry Potter series 9-12? Well, sure. But in 2016, many adults proudly read children’s and teen fiction—because it’s great. Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildLady MidnightGlass Sword, and Pax are all current bestsellers that were written for middle schoolers through teens, but are loved by both kids and adults. And it’s not just 2016 titles that have broad appeal; The Hobbit was originally considered children’s literature. Julius Caesar, one of Shakespeare’s classics, is listed as being for readers ages 12-17. What it all boils down to is that age ranges are subjective, even arbitrary: read what you want, and love what you love.

“I thought the Twilight books were better.”

Popular culture will always spawn these sorts of unnecessary rivalries: You can be a Trekkie or a Jedi. You can love Bond or prefer Bourne. Team Twilight; Team Potter. Of course, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone, especially when it gets people passionately discussing books. Having said that, the seven books in the Harry Potter series inspired a love of reading in fans of all ages, the movies became international sensations (and arguably began the trend of turning popular childrens’ series into blockbusters), and the first official Harry Potter story to be produced on stage, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, promises to be a West End phenomenon. Also, Robert Pattinson was in the Harry Potter movies first. You can love Twilight—we do—but you must respect the power of the Potter.

Magic isn’t real.”

Naysayers who have no love for a good fantasy are the first to jump on the No-Maj bandwagon. This debate really depends on how you define magic, though. Think it’s impossible to disappear for hours? Visit other planets without leaving your house? Travel through time? If you’re a reader, chances are you’ve pulled off all three feats in the last week alone. And consider the last time you sat down with a good book before bed and the suddenly realized it was after midnight. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

“There is no such thing as Hogwarts.”

Aside from the fact that there are now two brick and mortar Hogwarts Schools in the country (anyone else have their tickets to California booked?), Hogwarts is just as real as magic is. In the same way Narnia, The Shire, and Shakespeare’s love-torn Verona exist, so too does Hogwarts. To anyone who has ever needed an escape or an adventure, the wonderful worlds we visit in books are always there. “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it,” and those who believe in Hogwarts know where they can turn. If you can get lost in the feeling of a song, or the universe created by a movie, you can go to Hogwarts just as easily, all without the mess of owl droppings on your doorstep.

I would never want to be a Hufflepuff. Aren’t they supposed to be the lamest?”

Of the four houses at Hogwarts, three have wonderfully distinctive characteristics…and then there is Hufflepuff. Gryffindors are brave, Ravenclaws smart, and Slytherins cunning. Hufflepuffs are the nice ones who happen to live near the kitchens. Given their status as the welcoming house, they tend to be sadly overlooked and get no love in either the books or the movies. For a long time even a casual fan of the series could joke that they wouldn’t want to be in Hufflepuff. But J.K. Rowling has worked to correct this oversight, claiming that 2016 is the year of the Hufflepuffs, what with the rise of Newt Scamander and the film adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Real Hufflepuffs also know that Cedric Diggory and Nymphadora Tonks were Hufflepuffs too, and there are few characters in the series that are as awesome as Tonks. So before you casually indulge in Hufflepuff hate, check yourself.

“The movies were better.”

This is the hardest point to debate in the Potter universe. The eight movies are must-watch material for all fans, and the pending three for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them look terrific. The seven books, and Harry’s textbooks, are of course amazing. And don’t forget the incredible, and undersung, audiobooks. Jim Dale is a read-aloud wizard and everyone should fall under his spell. His performance of Goblet of Fire won a Grammy in 2o01, and he won again in 2008 for Deathly Hallows. No matter which medium you prefer, the bottom line is that there is no BAD Harry Potter.

What else should you never say to a Harry Potter fan?