books for kids with single parents

Children’s Books With Single Parents

The divorce rate in America peaked at around 50 percent in the 1980s and slowly has been trending downward. It is now slightly more than 40 percent. With so many divorced families, why are there more children’s books depicting single parents? Fruit & Veggie Mom ‏(@Eatfruitnveggie3h) asked me on Twitter, “My question is – what about books for single moms? Everything is mommy and daddy!”

This list is for her! Can you please help me out by adding your favorite children’s books with single parents? Thanks so much!

Single Parent in Children’s Books

10. A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

I love this picture book about an African American multigenerational family who save up and then search for a special chair after a fire destroys their home. Though it is never explicitly stated, the family is depicted as a grandmother, a mother and her daughter. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

9. Rocky Road by Rose Kent

Tess Dobson is moving to Schenectady, New York, another one of her hair brained ideas by her bipolar single mother. Her younger brother is hearing impaired so that leaves just her to keep the family together. When her mother’s dream of owning an ice cream parlor goes south, can she pull together her new friends, both young and old — they are living in a retirement village — to save the business? [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

8. My Ole Man by Patricia Polacco

Polacco writes and illustrated advance picture books that draw upon her past. In this picture book about her divorced dad, she and her brother spends time with him and their wheelchair bound grandmother when disaster strikes. He loses his traveling salesman job. Can a mysterious rock help find him a new job? [picture book, ages 6 and up]

7. Yoko by Rosemary Wells

Yoko’s family is quite small. It’s just she and her mother. She has grandparents back in Japan who love her but that’s a different story (Yoko’s Paper Cranes). When Yoko brings sushi for her school lunch, she is embarrassed by her “weird lunch.”  Her teacher devises an international food day to teach kids tolerance. Will it work?  This is a wonderful multicultural picture book that covers themes of bullying and friendship. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

6. A Million Miles from Boston by Karen Day

Lucy can’t wait to go to her family summer house in Maine but this summer things are complicated. Ian, an annoying boy from school, is staying next door. And her father, widowed when she was six-years-old, now has a serious girlfriend who is coming to visit. Why can’t things stay the same? [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

5. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s mother has disappeared which puts her on a journey of discovery. First, she and her father leave their farm in Kentucky and move to Ohio. Next, Salamanca travels with her  grandparents on a six-day drive to Idaho to retrace her mother’s route. Her new best friend Phoebe’s mother has also left their family. As Salamanca walks two moons in the shoes of her mother, she is finally ready to face what really happened to both missing mothers. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]

4. Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman

The story of Amazing Grace continues . In Boundless Grace, she  goes to Africa to visit her father who has remarried and has a new family. Grace’s family in the United States is a multigenerational one consisting of her grandmother, mother and herself and she worries that her family isn’t complete without a father, brother and and a dog.  [picture book, ages 4 and up]

3. The Family Book by Todd Parr

Todd Parr is gently and humorously reassuring that families come in all shapes and sizes. [picture book, ages 1 and up]

2. How to Rock Braces and Glasses by Meg Haston

It’s not easy when your father leaves your mother. Perhaps this is why middle school Queen Bee Kacey Simon finds is a mean girl but when she is forced to wear glasses after a contact lens incident and braces to straighten her teeth, she finds she is now in a lower social echelon. Her “friends” have abandoned her. Luckily, she has plan to turn it all around but will it be worth it? [chapter book, ages 10 and up]

2. Who’s in a Family? by Robert Skutch

Family is important, but who’s in a family? Why, the people who love you the most!This equal opportunity, open-minded picture book has no preconceptions about what makes a family a family. [picture book, ages 3 and up]

1. Pricilla Twice by  Judith Caseley

When her parents separate, Pricilla spends her days between two homes, feeling split apart yet needed more than ever before. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


A few more:

Thank you to Catherine of Story Snug for this wonderful gem of a picture book!

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies

She says, “One of my daughter’s first questions about the story was where Noi’s mummy was which gave us the opportunity to talk about different family structures. The Storm Whale has also provided us with opportunities to talk about friendship, caring and whales. My daughter has fun counting the cats on each page and has started to include whales in her own stories.”

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

Mr. Penderwick is widowed and his four girls get involved in his personal business with a “Save Daddy” Plan to foil his plans for jumping back into the dating world. Spoiler alert: he does find true love by the end of the book.[chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Half Magic by Edgar Eager

Four children of a single mother find a magic coin that grants half of their wishes. Their mother’s new “friend,” Mr. Smith, fortunately understands about magic because he’s needed for a magic adventure that goes awry. Spoiler alert: Their mother marries Mr. Smith by the end of the book. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright

The four Melendy children live with their father and Cuffy, their beloved housekeeper, in a worn but comfortable brownstone in New York City. There’s thirteen-year-old Mona, who has decided to become an actress; twelve-year-old mischievous Rush; ten-and-a-half-year-old Randy, who loves to dance and paint; and thoughtful Oliver, who is just six. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]

Love Is a Family by Roma Downey

This is the story of a young girl being raised by her mother. She longs for a large noisy family like that of her friend. At the school family fun night, she sees all the different family combinations, and realizes it is love that makes a family. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

books for kids with single parents

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Great list – we read some of the books on it but not all. I love Grace series by Mary Hoffman, so I need to look for this book!
    Natalie recently posted…Discover Chemistry–Self-Led InvestigationMy Profile

  2. Pricilla Twice looks particularly interesting…I have never seen that one.

  3. Interesting list. I loved Yoko. I am going to look up some others on your list 🙂
    Erik – This Kid Reviews Books recently posted…All Hallows Eve vs. Fantómas III: Kiss and Live to Tell and 3 Chimps and a Chump Comic by David EveleighMy Profile

  4. What a great topic for a book list, Mia! A lot of times it’s only the mom we see in the book and no way of knowing if the father’s presence is implied.
    Erica recently posted…Great Easy Reader Books for KidsMy Profile

    • Hi Erica,
      You’re right! But I think there should be more books for kids where the parents are divorced (and all the different permuatations that results in including step parents, step siblings and half siblings) because that is reality and kids really need to see themselves in books. I was surprised that when I thought about it, how few books I could think of!
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  5. What a great topic for a book list! Yoko is one of my favorites. 🙂
    Katie recently posted…Picture Books for HalloweenMy Profile

  6. Excuse me, but what is actually the main idea of all these books? Why do these authors seem to write this way? and Can you imagine what are parents teaching their little children? I’m against some of these books (I won’t name you which, it’s my right ok), but some of them are very heartwarming and take care as for psychic state of children. Everywhere we see ads and movies and all kind of that means of information that instill fake stereotypes into little children. Of course it is discrimination when there are single mums who have to work long hours to provide their kids with everything but where are men at that time?.. It’s sad…
    Maria G. recently posted…How to make a soothing balsam for feetMy Profile

    • Hi Maria,
      It’s not always clear in all these books on the list why the mother or father are single. In some cases, the other parent died and the book may (or may not) turn on how the children are coping with that loss (Penderwicks first and second book, A Million Miles from Boston). In other cases, showing a single parent is great, I think, for kids reading those books who also are living in with a single parent.

      The divorce rate is quite high in the United States so I’m glad there are books for kids that depict this reality but there are not as many books with divorced parents to reflect the general population. That seems strange to me!

      But you are right that it’s challenging for single parents to provide for their kids and so I think that is an important topic to depcit in kids’ books.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Exercise: A Small Change for a Big DifferenceMy Profile

  7. Thank you for another great book list – and for sharing at After School!
    Anna recently posted…Teach letters and numbers with Hungry Harry, a fabulous e-book for kids!My Profile

  8. The Storm Whale is on Story Snug today – it’s the story of a little boy who lives with his father.
    Catherine recently posted…The Storm Whale by Benji DaviesMy Profile

  9. This is a great topic, Mia- I didn’t know the rate had dropped. Interesting.
    Jeanette Nyberg recently posted…Win A Radio Flyer Ziggle!My Profile

  10. Ami

    In my opinion, Judy Blume (as always) wrote the pinnacle of single parenting/divorce books with “It’s Not the End of the World.” This was the very first book I ever read, as a child, about divorce. Even though it’s written in another generation, I still think its story is timeless.
    Ami recently posted…Houston, we have eggs.My Profile

    • Hi Ami,
      I think I might have read that a long time ago as a child. I’ll have to find it at the library and read it again. Thanks so much for your great book suggestion. I love Judy Blume! I’m sure it’s the pinnacle of single parenting/divorce chapter books out there! She just seems to nail difficult subjects in a very relatable way. Thank you again!! I’ll add it to the list!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Exercise: A Small Change for a Big DifferenceMy Profile

  11. Thank you for sharing this list via the Mommy Monday Blog Hop 🙂
    I love that authors are touching on all life situations. It’s important for all children to feel included no matter their situation– thank you!

  12. Really interesting list. I have to check out Mary Hoffman’s book. Another one to add is “Eddie’s Toolbox” by Sarah Garland (I reviewed it about 2 weeks ago) which has two single parents in it.
    Kriss MacDonald recently posted…Just a walk on the beachMy Profile

  13. Great post! I have often wondered why there aren’t more books that not only depict single parent families, but also blended families! There are so many types of families. I try to read books to my son that touches on all kinds of families and always trying to find some that depict co-parenting because I want him to better understand what he’s going through at the moment.

    Thanks so much for sharing this list at Turn It Up Tuesdays! We love having you! 🙂
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  14. Hi Mia. I wanted to mention my picture books BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE and the upcoming BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA (January 2014). They both feature a single penguin mom doing some hardcore solo parenting!

  15. Diane Danielson

    Hi – Loved this list. I actually wrote a children’s book with just a single mom and her son moving to a new town (wish I had more of these when my son was little). There is a Mouse That is Haunting Our House (SDP Publishing 2012). I’d be honored if you would consider it for your list.

  16. Hey there,

    Thanks for this. This is not something I have even thought about – but I know in this day and age, is essential (unfortunately it’s so common). However, when I think back to the books I have read in the past, or even as a child – I cannot think of one book that had a single parent.

    I know I am old fashioned, I don’t think it’s bad that books promote married people functioning in the same household – and making it seem like the everyday norm – even if it’s not the child’s reality. In reality i think we have enough shows and movies that show and feature families with single parents. I think people are very familiar and comfortable with that reality. With that said, I am a product of divorced parents and I know that many children exist in a household only with one parent, it’s good that authors are showing that as well.
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    • Hi Lisa,
      I do think that it’s really important for kids to read about characters that they can relate to and to me that includes parenting households whether it is single parents or gay parents or blended families. I think it makes kids feel validated. But you are right, there aren’t many books for kids with single parents even today and 20 or 30 years ago, not many at all.

      I still think there should be more published. I am going to work on a blended family list next. I hope there are some good ones!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Domestic Violence Books for KidsMy Profile

  17. I’d love to add BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE, by Melissa Guion. Also, a sequel in on the way: BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA! Without directly addressing the ‘heavy’ issue of single parenthood, this mama starts out a bit lonely, and magically becomes a parent without even knowing she wanted a child (or multiples-which is part of this book’s careful what you wish for charm). She’s tired but happy by the end, and there are gentle hints about the intensity of single parenting. The illustrations are sweet, in the best sense of the word. As a parenting coach and writer on all things parenting, I can definitely rec’ this book for your already wonderful list!

  18. Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    Great idea for a list! Interestingly, the books that come to mind for me involve both parents deceased or missing! Thanks for sharing in the Kid Lit Blog Hop!
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  19. What a fantastic list! I never would have thought of grouping these together, but it’s a great idea. I noticed recently that Toy Story seems to showcase a single parent family. Not sure why I never caught that growing up! Thank you for sharing with the KLBH 😉
    Jaymie Shook recently posted…Kid Lit Blog Hop #25My Profile

  20. Great post Mia! It\\\’s always helpful to know there are resources that offer more than the cookie cutter approach for story telling and education. Our lives are so varied and dynamic in these times, books and stories that reflect that reality are a real benefit to us all.

  21. Hi, I am not sure if you’re only looking at books available in the US, but my book There’s a Ghost in My PC (Scholastic India) features a single mother and her two daughters. Their mother’s friend, also a single parent, with a grown-up child, also lives with them. More info and an excerpt at my website — just click on my name (the comment system isn’t allowing me to insert URLs)

    • Hi Payal,
      Thanks for the introduction to your book. I’ll add the link for you. It sounds fun and your plot is very original!

      Category: Young-adult Fiction
      Publisher: Scholastic India Pvt. Ltd.

      It’s a catastrophe—Madhu is about to turn thirteen and her mother wants to buy her a new computer! Oh yes, you read right, a brand new shiny computer. But for Madhu, a new PC = full-scale disaster. For unknown to anyone else, Madhu’s battered second-hand laptop is very, very special indeed. It can get online without an Internet connection; no virus will ever dare to enter it; and the software keeps itself updated. Oh, and it has an erratic sense of humour and is in the habit of having long and frequent conversations with Madhu.

      For between the motherboard and the megabytes resides Viru—the ghost of her dead neighbour—and Madhu’s best friend. What will happen to Viru if she gets a new computer? What with coming up with a plan to save Viru, reconciling Cousin Kavitha with her mother, and finding out what Amma’s new friend from work is really up to—is it any wonder that Madhu can hardly sleep at night?
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  22. This is great, Pragmatic Mom! And so timely for me, as I’m going to do a list for a NYC/Brooklyn based organization that helps women through the beginning and subsequent stages of separation and divorce. Some of the books here are PERFECT for the piece I’ll be doing. Also, in my work as a Parenting Coach, I’m always looking for new resources.

  23. I’d like to include my newest chapter book FOUR SEASONS OF PATRICK (Red Deer, 2013). Patrick’s mother has died a few years ago. Now Patrick’s father is planning to remarry a woman named Linda. She has a young daughter, who is “annoying” according to Patrick. He struggles to come to terms with this crowding into his space and finally is able to recognise his new sister’s feelings, as well.

    I also hope you can include my book ISLAND HORSE (Kids Can), set in the early 1800s.When Ellie’s mother dies, her father finds work on Sable Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia. Ellie is reluctant to move away from her home and leave behind memories of her mother, even though her father tells her there are wild horses on Sable Island. Angry at her father, she must accompany him. As she forms a connection with Orchid, the wild stallion, she also makes a new friend with the “wild” girl on the island and reconnects with her father.

    Thanks for including so many great titles on your link!

    Best Susan Hughes

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