The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

An Ode to Dads and Daughters: Dad Bakes

Dad Bakes
Written and Illustrated by Katie Yamasaki
Published by Norton Young Readers, October 2021
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1324015413
Grades PreK and Up


Dad Bakes is for “[a]ll of the families impacted by incarceration who I’ve painted with through the years” writes muralist and book creator Katie Yamasaki. Illustrated in bright, saturated colors, this tender story begins with four muralistic double-page spreads that provide the essential backstory for the narrative. The first and second establish the daily transition from dusk to dawn. The third features a young girl perched on a chair, reaching into a closet for a box labelled “Papa,” which is filled with letters. The fourth indicates the passage of time and exchange of letters and photos between the girl and her father. Finally, before this father-daughter story begins, the title page highlights a reunited family as Dad kisses his child goodnight.

In alignment with the backstory, the first page of this day-in-the-life narrative shows Dad waking at 3:00 AM and walking to his job at “Rise Up Bakery.” Upon returning home, Dad rests. The young narrator busies herself, waiting for the requisite time to wake her father. A lovely afternoon ensues with a special surprise that makes their home “smells like warm bread.” Conveyed in the present-tense, this circular story ends where it began: Dad tucks his child into bed, and rests before starting a new day. Although the text does not allude to Dad’s previous incarceration, the author’s note and aforementioned wordless spreads provide the backstory for the parent and child’s separation and reunion. Dad Bakes is both an allegory about rising again and an important addition to any classroom collection that seeks to humanize the life experiences of every child and family.

Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Note to our Readers: These ideas are not meant to be prescriptive. Choose one. Choose more. It’s up to you. Some ideas are bigger and will take a number of days to complete. Some are shorter. You can also choose to complete one part of a teaching idea, but not the whole thing. It’s up to you!

K and Up

Critical Literacy: Resisting Stereotypes and Supporting Families
In Dad Bakes Yamasaki rejects harmful stereotypes about the families of incarcerated people and instead depicts a loving, positive relationship between a father whose home is welcoming and filled with plants. The two read together, work in a garden together, play games together, and appear to thoroughly enjoy their familial life together. Share excerpts from the author’s note with students. Invite students to discuss why it was important for Yamasaki to tell readers about the “profound and lasting impact” that familial incarceration has on children and about the “complex hardships related to the stigma of incarceration” experienced by people who return home from completing prison sentences.

Encourage students to think about the importance of groups and organizations that provide resources for individuals and families to redirect and build their lives after incarceration. Investigate the organizations in your region that support children of incarcerated parents. See the resources listed in Yamasaki’s author’s note as well as those listed online with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Learn how school and/or classroom groups can partner with these organizations. Also see the Further Explorations section below for a list of additional picturebooks that dignify the experiences of children with incarcerated family members.

Parent-Child Relationships
At the heart of Dad Bakes is a story about the loving relationship between a child and parent. Read this story alongside other picturebooks about parents and children. For titles and activities, see previous Classroom Bookshelf entries for books such as My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Johanna Ho and Who’s in My Family?: All About Our Families by Robie H. Harris. As an extension, invite students to share their own parent-child stories.

Visit a Local Bakery
The father in Dad Bakes works at “Rise Up Bakery.” As described in the author’s note, the fictional bakery is modeled after “On the Rise Bakery” in Detroit, MI, which provides training, employment, housing, and counseling to previously incarcerated persons. Prior to taking a class field trip to a local bakery, consult Dad Bakes to develop a set of interview questions for the bakers. For example, in the story, Dad rises at 3:00 AM to walk to the bakery prior to beginning work. When do local bakers begin baking bread for the day? Dad works side by side with other people to prepare baked goods. How many people work at the local bakery? In Yamasaki’s illustrations, Dad is depicted alongside industrial size baking equipment, surrounded by different workstations. What kinds of tools and equipment are used at the local bakery? Dad bakes at home with his daughter. Do the local bakers also bake in their home kitchens, too? See the resources below for video visits to bakeries, too.

Bake Bread
In this story, father and daughter bake bread with yeast, which requires patience while the dough rises. Find out if students make their own types of bread at home, which became a pandemic-related pastime in some households. Engage students in making yeast bread. If kitchen facilities are available, invite parents and/or school staff to assist with the process. Alternatively, consider bringing-in a portable bread maker, air fryer, or pressure cooker to prepare bread in the classroom. As part of the bread-making process, encourage students to consult the illustrations of Dad Bakes to consider the different shapes of bread loaves and rolls.

Learn about Bread Science
Make a science connection! Why does bread have holes? Consult the Readers to Eaters picturebook Bread Lab and resources of the Washington State University Bread Lab to learn about the science of bread making. Incorporate bread and yeast studies into the science curriculum. The SciShow episode on yeast is a great place to start.

Worth the Wait
Yamsaki’s quiet text suggests that both eating delicious yeasted bread and spending time with loved-ones is worth the wait. Invite students to consider the things in their lives that are “worth the wait,” so to speak. Have them brainstorm ideas and then write opinion, persuasive, and/or argument pieces about what they consider to be worth the wait. Pair this activity with the reading of other books about waiting such as Waiting by Kevin Henkes, Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems, and Wait by Antoinette Portis.

Write a Book
The text-based narrative of Dad Bakes is presented from the point-of-view of the child and chronicles the events of her and Dad’s day. For instance, the child observes that at the bakery, “Dad makes small rolls. Dad makes large loaves.” Invite students to use Dad Bakes as a mentor text to write their own stories about a day-in-the-life of a person who is important to them. Such an endeavor may require children to conduct interviews to learn about the work, school, or daily activities of other members of their households. As part of the book making process, encourage students to examine the ways Yamasaki arranges some of her illustrations in quadrants. Encourage them to consider the purposes and benefits of illustrating in frames and/or vignettes to convey information to readers.

Duet Model: Bread
Compare and contrast Dad Bakes with Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris, a photographic “round-the-world” tour of bread. Consider the way in which bread and/or the act of “breaking bread” is significant for families and communities. How do these books correspond with the acts of baking and breaking-bread together as community-building endeavors?

Circular Endings
Yamasaki begins (on the title page) and ends the story with a common image of Dad tucking his daughter into bed. Invite students to consider why an author and/or illustrator would make such a decision. Encourage them to discuss how connecting the ending with the beginning of the book influences the meaning of the story. Explore other books in other genres that are circular in nature such as Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming & Eric Rohmann, Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore, and Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell. Students might try applying circular endings in their next writing pieces, too.

Further Explorations
Video visits to bakeries
PBS Between the Lions: Making Bread at a Bakery
Highlights Kids: Making Bread at a Bakery

Videos: Baking bread
How Bread Is Made
Making Bread in a Bag

Books about Bread
Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard
Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia

Books about Families of Incarcerated Parents
Deena Misses her Mom by Jonae Haynesworth, Jesse Holmes, Layonnie Jones, & Kahliya Ruffin.
Far Apart, Close in Heart by Becky Birtha & Maja Kastelic.
Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty & Bryan Collier.
Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña & Christian Robinson.
Missing Daddy by Mariame Kaba & Bria Royal.
The Night Dad Went to Jail by Melissa Higgins & Wednesday Kirwan.
Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson & James E. Ransome.