Read these children’s books with single parents! Includes picture books and chapter books featuring single parent and non traditional families.
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!
New Not-To-Be Missed Children’s Books with Single Parents
The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick
What makes a true hero? Sonnenblick has always created heroes that spoke to me. They weren’t obviously heroic on the outside being puny or skinny but they carried an invisible burden gracefully that would have felled anyone else. They also have the superpower to change those around them for the better.
Maverick is carrying the weight of his mother’s alcoholism and the instability and poverty that it brings including food instability. His father died in Afghanistan when he was three. His mother has always attracted men who were physically abusive and Maverick’s shame is that he never stood up to them.
As the story unfolds, Maverick decides to be that guy who protects the victims at school despite being scrawny. He finds out that people surprise you, especially himself. If you liked Wonder by R. J. Palacio or One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, you will love this book too. [chapter book, for ages 8 and up]
Single Parents 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 saves up and then searches 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? [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
8. My Ol’ 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 spend 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’s 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? [middle grade, 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. [middle grade, 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 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 a 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. 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]
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.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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. [middle grade, 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. [middle grade, 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. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
To examine any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
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p.s. Related posts:
Book Lists to Teach Kids Compassion
166 Chapter Books for Difficult Situations: #MGGetsReal
National Center for Learning Disabilities Resources for Parents
These book lists are for those difficult situations that come up when you want to talk to kids about something but don’t know where to start:
- Birds and Bees Talk
- Best Friend Moves Away
- Afraid of the Dark
- Inappropriate Touch
- Living in Alcoholic Home
- Domestic Violence
- Loss of Pet
- Incarcerated Parents
- Grief and Loss
Are you looking for something different? I indexed and cross referenced my 300+ book lists: List of Lists: All My Book Lists.
Book Lists for Difficult Situations
Understanding Poverty: A Book List for Ages 4-11
11 Chapter Books About Grief and Loss
Birds and the Bees Talk Books for Kids
10 Books Featuring Kids with Incarcerated Parents
Best Friend Moves Away Picture Books
Top 10: Afraid of the Dark Picture Books
Keeping Kids Safe from Inappropriate Touch
Living in an Alcoholic Home Books for Kids
Domestic Violence Awareness Books for Kids
Best Books for Kids that Deal with Bullies
Top 10: Multicultural Picture Books on Bullying
Top 10: Coping with Loss of Pets Books for Kids
Books About Cancer for Kids and Teens
Homelessness in Children’s Books
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
54 thoughts on “Best Children’s Books With Single Parents”
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!
A Twitter friend asked about a list for single parents in children’s books and I realized that there really are not so many! I had to wrack my brain and research. It seems like a shame since many kids can relate to single parents in books.
Yes please! Single mom by choice looking for more books to help my daughter know how special our family is!
Pricilla Twice looks particularly interesting…I have never seen that one.
I need to read that one too!
Interesting list. I loved Yoko. I am going to look up some others on your list 🙂
Yoko is one of my all time favorite picture books for kids. I love Rosemary Wells in general but Yoko hits on so many great themes for kids to teach them how to be a good friend.
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.
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!
What a great topic for a book list! Yoko is one of my favorites. 🙂
Me too! I seriously love Yoko on so many levels! I’m glad we both like the same books! That makes me happy!
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…
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.
Thank you for another great book list – and for sharing at After School!
Thanks so much for hosting After School liky Anna!!
The Storm Whale is on Story Snug today – it’s the story of a little boy who lives with his father.
What a lovely book! I just read your post and I’m adding it to the list. Thanks so much for your great book reviews and for your suggestion!
This is a great topic, Mia- I didn’t know the rate had dropped. Interesting.
It’s nice the divorce rate has dropped. I wonder why but that is a good thing! Perhaps the average age for marriage is trending older? I know that in Newton, MA where I live, there is a low divorce rate but that is because we tend to marry much later than the most.
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.
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!
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!
Hi Mrs. AOK,
Thanks so much for hosting the Mommy Monday Blog Hop. It is wonderful to find books to reflect the situations of kids out there, especially when there are so many in that same situation.
I couldn’t agree more!
Thanks Mrs. AOK!
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.
Thank you so much for your great book recommendation Kriss! Adding it to the list!
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! 🙂
Blended families is a great idea! I’ll work on that list too!
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!
Thanks so much for the heads up about your new picture book. It sounds very cute and fits the theme of this post!!
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.
Thanks so much for the heads up on your book! Sounds perfect for my list.
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.
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!
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!
Thanks for your great recommendation! I’ll add to the list!
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!
Thanks so much for hosting the Kid Lit BLog Hop Renee. It’s my favorite!!! Glad you find the list helpful! I know, right? It is hard to think of books with divorced characters yet that is the real world out there and kids should be able to relate to books written for them.
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 😉
Oh, good point! I never noticed that either in Toy Story!!!
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.
Thanks Family Law,
I agree with you that it’s important for kids to see themselves in the books that they read. I hope that there will be more books for kids with single parents since it was surprisingly challenging to find this in KidLit.
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)
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?
Thanks Mia. And thanks for compiling this list.
You are very welcome Payal!!
This is great, Pragmatic Mom! And so timely for me, as I’m going to do a list for Untied.net 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.
I can’t tell you how happy your comment makes me! I’m so glad my list is helpful to you and the work you do!! I’ll keep updating it as I find new and great books with single parents!!!
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
Thank you so much for the heads up on your wonderful books! There doesn’t seem to be enough KidLit with characters who have single parents so I am thrilled to add yours to the list!!
good collection. we have a positive parenting article.
Thanks so much Priscilla!