When my boys were young, I’d read them picture books, all of which seemed to reflect a two-parent household. There were always two parents interacting. Two adults in the illustrations. But by the time my boys were two and three years old, that wasn’t our reality. I was a divorced single mom with two toddlers to look after on my own. I read to them. I played with them. I cared for them. All. By. Myself.
As they got a bit older, they started to realize that the families they saw in books weren’t like ours. Even worse, they started to feel like something was wrong with us. It turns out, we were perfectly normal. In fact, more children are living in single-parent households now than when my boys were little. Last year in Canada, there were about 1.71 million single-parent families versus 1.56 million in 2010.
So why isn’t this reflected in the books we’re reading to our kids? The good news is that today, there are more books to choose from that deal with divorce and separation so kids can see themselves in the books they read. This list of books includes choices for little kids and bigger kids, all that reflect single-parent households in some way. If you look closely, you’ll note that one of the books is mine. A few years ago, angry about the lack of diversity in family structure depicted in the books my kids were reading, I decided to write one myself. Just Watch Me is dedicated to my boys, and every other child whose parents are divorced. I hope it helps readers see that there are many kinds of families and that life will be okay, even if their parents aren’t together.
Blended by Sharon M. Draper | Available here
I just finished this book by Sharon M. Draper, one of my favourite middle-grade writers. It’s about a girl whose parents are going through a messy divorce. The main character is also coming of age at a time of racial inequality in the U.S. and dealing with her own identity. It’s an impactful read for anyone, not just kids whose parents are getting divorced.
It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume | Available here
Published in 2014, this middle-grade novel is classic Judy Blume—heartfelt and meaningful. It’s about a child growing up and struggling to cope with her parents’ messy divorce. It’s raw and powerful—perfect for preteens experiencing their parents’ divorce.
The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead | Available here
This novel was released this year and is now at the top of my reading list. By Newbery Award-winning author Rebecca Stead, this book is already being described as a soon-to-be classic. In the midst of many life changes, including her dad’s remarriage to his boyfriend, main character Bea makes a list of all the things that won’t change at a time when everything in life is changing. A beautiful book.
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy | Available here
The author of Dumplin’ came out with her first middle-grade novel last year and it’s earned four-star reviews. It’s about a girl whose parents have split up but decide to live in identical houses on the same street. That’s the backdrop for a book that’s funny, heartwarming and about so much more…
Just Watch Me by Erin Silver | Available here
This book uses toilet humour, social media and video games to draw boys in, but it also addresses more serious themes like bullying, friendship and divorce. I hope readers laugh their way to the end when they realize the main character will be okay, even if his parents don’t end up together.
The Enormous Suitcase by Robert Munsch | Available here
It’s not easy living in two houses. The Enormous Suitcase was written by Munsch for a child who asked him to write a story about a girl going back and forth between her parents’ houses. It’s a funny picture book about a kid making the best of a difficult situation.
Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly | Available here
A beautifully written and illustrated picture book, Emily’s Blue Period helps kids verbalize what it feels like when their parents are separated or divorced. Touching and heartfelt, it pops up on many lists when you search for “picture books about divorce.”
I Have Two Homes by Colleen LeMaire | Available here
Love makes this family special in a picture book written by Colleen LeMaire. She reached out to me on social media to say she also wrote this book at a time when there wasn’t much on the market for kids that reflected single-parent households.
Living with Mom and Living with Dad by Melanie Walsh | Available here
This picture book also gets top ratings for normalizing divorce for young children. In it, kids will learn that despite having two houses, they are loved in each one.
Two Homes by Claire Masurel | Available here
Published in 2003, this is a classic and reassuring story about a young child dealing with his parents’ divorce. While his two homes may be different, he is very much loved by both parents. It’s sensitive to the needs of young kids and optimistic at the same time.