MICHELE NORRIS, host:
You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
June can be a hectic month: kids are graduating, adults are making summer plans and everyone is ready for a vacation. That means Father's Day sometimes gets overlooked. It's this Sunday, by the way. And one of our listener's, Stacy Saunders, has some literary ideas to honor fathers.
As part of our series called Three Books, she recommends three books that feature very different dads.
Mr. STACY SAUNDERS (Blogger, 111books.blogspot.com): Dads are amazing creatures. They transform themselves into various animals to provide transportation for little travelers. They're always up for games like let's-look-for-bugs-under-these-rocks and I'll-be-triceratops-and-you-be-T-Rex. And nobody, but nobody, beats daddy for daily stories.
So here are three enthralling reads about dads. The fathers in these books run the daddy gamut - the good, the bad and the in-between. Because what fun is it to read only about perfect fathers, especially when we know they aren't the only kind? Our good dad comes from Harper Lee's classic novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." It is 1935, the Depression is in full swing, Hitler is up to no good, and in Maycomb, Alabama, Scout and Jem Finch are learning the meaning of bigotry.
Their father, a hardworking lawyer named Atticus Finch, is defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. When the children have to endure taunts about their father from classmates, he tells them to walk a mile in the other person's shoes. And every night, he is a comfortable chair for Scout to curl up in for a good read. Brave, wise and cozy. Dads don't get any better than Atticus Finch.
Nor do they get much worse than Jack Torrance, the bad daddy of Stephen King's haunted-hotel novel "The Shining." Jack accepts a job most people would run from, serving as winter caretaker to the isolated Overlook Hotel, a haunted old resort with a murderous history. Why does Jack do it? Because he loves his son, Danny. True, he tries to smash the kid's head in, but let's give the guy a break, he was possessed by the hotel.
Reading King's novel, the famous image from the book's film adaptation, that of Jack Nicholson's blood-smeared face leering through the splinters of an axe-hacked door, disappears from our mind's eye. Instead, we see a down-on-his-luck, average guy who would have been a good father if not for the malevolence of his own internal demons.
For our in-between dad, let's revisit Vladek Spiegelman, the true-life dad featured in Art Spiegelman's "Maus: A Survivor's Tale." Maus is a gripping nonfiction account of the Holocaust written in the form of a comic book. In this book, the European Jews are drawn as mice and the Germans as cats. Art Spiegelman blends a comical picture of his frustrating relationship with his father with a terrifying account of life in Auschwitz. Vladek seems like an annoying, critical and curmudgeonly old man, but then you see how his MacGyver-like resourcefulness helped him survive the horrors of the camps, and you give the man some respect.
Vladek turns out to be an amazing man, even though he could be a bit of a noodge as a father. The fathers in these three books will leave you wishing your dad was more like them or thankful that he isn't.
NORRIS: Stacy Saunders is an English teacher and freelance writer. She lives in New Jersey. The three books she suggested are "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, "The Shining" by Stephen King, and "Maus" by Art Spiegelman. You can find a lot more literary recommendations at the summer book section at npr.org.