Father sells best

With Father's Day around the corner, shop windows are filled with displays of ties, golf paraphernalia, and cards. Two new coffee-table books offer a series of photo-essay profiles of fathers - many of them well known - at home with their children.

Diane Long's book, "He's Just My Dad" (Harper Entertainment, $35, 164 pp.), takes a peek at world-class athletes, from basketball great Isiah Thomas to bicycler Greg LeMond. This time, though, it's fatherhood rather than athletic prowess that is being celebrated.

Mrs. Long, whose husband, Football Hall of Famer Howie Long and their children are included, wanted to show a gentler side of men who are usually pictured whacking balls or crunching opponents.

The book includes endearing photos and quotes from both the athletes and their children. Long captures them off the playing field, in their own backyards, where their kids are clearly the stars.

The subjects in another timely dad-focused book are more diverse. Writer Todd Richissin and photographer Jim Graham teamed to create a series of photo essays entitled "Fathers and Sons" (Running Press, $27.50, 144 pp.), which includes profiles of artists, firemen, and Civil War reenactors, together with their male offspring.

Though athletes are featured prominently (Jack Nicklaus and John McEnroe among them), the authors also look at broadcasting personalities Mike Wallace and Garrison Keillor, animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams, and plenty of lesser-known father-son combinations.

Mr. Richissin's essays delve deeper into the families' lives than those in Long's book, and although there is plenty of celebration of the parental bond, he doesn't shy away from difficult issues, such as divorce. Nor does he pass judgment on nontraditional family arrangements. He profiles a two-father, four-race family; an elderly father diagnosed with Alzheimer's; and a father who has raised more than 40 foster kids along with his own.

A sad footnote: Both books profile the legendary Petty auto-racing family. The youngest in the dynasty, Adam, grandson of NASCAR record holder Richard Petty, was killed May 12 during a practice run.

As we all search for ways to celebrate fatherhood this Sunday, these two books provide a window into the poignant, touching, and often humorous moments in fathers' lives.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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