Today’s Picture Book of the Day comes from the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Twitter Party. We asked participants to tell us what inclusive, diversity and/or multicultural children’s books they having trouble finding. It’s a heartbreaking topic but kids who live in an alcoholic home were one such request. I researched and found these books at my local public library. Some of these books are still in print. I hope these books find their way into the hands of the kids who need this.
It’s interesting that there are so few books for kids about living in an alcoholic home as alcohol use disorders affect 16% of adults in the U.S., and more than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study. I would imagine kids who live in an alcoholic home feel very alone with this kind of problem and would benefit from books that show them that there are others facing this problem and give them ideas to help them cope.
I think the most important thing for kids who live in an alcoholic home to realize is that they are not the cause of their parent’s problem and that their parent has a disease which is no one’s fault.
Am I missing any books you recommend? Please share! Thank you!
Picture Book of the Day for Kids Living in Alcoholic Home
When Someone in the Family Drinks Too Much by Richard C. Langsen, illustrated by Nicole Rubel
The book starts off by defining what an alcoholic is, then continues with signs that someone may be an alcoholic including denial, mood swings, blackouts, and embarrassing behavior. I found the section of how a family is hurt by alcoholism to be helpful naming the different roles family members might assume: enabler, perfect child, rebel, lonely child, and clown. Finally, the book concludes with advice on things you can do to feel better including ideas of where you can get help as a child. With a sensitive take on a difficult subject, this picture book’s no-nonsense factual approach is helpful and enlightening. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
More Books for Kids about Living in an Alcoholic Home
My Dad by Niki Daly
Gracie and her older brother are coping as best they can with their family situation. Their father is a happy drunk most Friday nights when his buddies come over but he doesn’t think he has a problem. He argues a lot with their mom but things come to a head when he and Gracie perform for a Friday night school concert. They deliberately neglect to tell their father because they are anxious about what state he might be in, but he shows up anyway and embarrasses them with his loud and inappropriate behavior. This is the turning point for their father and he joins AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), finally realizing that he’s sick and can get better.
This picture book is in loving memory of Niki Daly’s father and a testimony of the unconditional love a child has for a parent. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Wishes and Worries: Coping with a Parent Who Drinks Too Much Alcohol by Centre For Addiction And Mental Health and Lars Rudebjer
Wishes and Worries is a realistic portrayal of what it’s like for a child to live in an alcoholic home. For Maggie, she acts out because she’s angry and has trouble focusing at school. Her parents fight a lot which makes her want to cry but her siblings cope by either withdrawing or storming out.
Things get better when Maggie finds she can talk to her teacher at school. He directs her to the school counselor, Miss Yee, who lets her know that this is not her fault but also helps her come up with coping strategies including making a list of adults she can turn to.
Maggie learns that some people can drink without issue while others can not. Her father finds someone to talk to also and his new doctor is going to help him with his drinking problem. Her father has a few setbacks but now Maggie has tools to help her cope with her fear and anger. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Bottles Break by Nancy Maria Grande Tabor
“Sometimes I think my mom would rather have a bottle than me.”
With very simple illustrations, this picture book conveys the difficult feelings children living in an alcoholic home experience: anger, guilt, nervousness, depression, sadness, and embarrassment. Tabor uses a bottle as an analogy for adults with an alcohol problem: when they are full, they are people but after they drink they are empty. They both break too. Tabor also includes writing for kids as one coping strategy. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Jon J Muth
This story is more about addiction than alcoholism though it’s not outright stated. I have included this picture book because it might be comforting to know that other children are in similar circumstances where a social worker has to intervene and take them to live somewhere else. In the case of Johnson and his older sister Beebee, they are placed with their estranged Aunt Gracie who creates a wonderful place for them to live and waits patiently until they are ready to love her back. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Bringing Me Back by Beth Vrabel
Noah’s mother is arrested for drunk driving after a middle school football party, which has myriad consequences: she is arrested and sent to prison for several months, her boyfriend is made Noah’s guardian, Noah reacts poorly and is caught shoplifting, and the school football team loses its coach and is disbanded because of lack of funds and the bad publicity. The loss of the team is difficult for the impoverished West Virginia town, and Noah is ostracized and ill-treated by his classmates. When the former cheerleaders start a fundraising campaign to reinstate the team (which involves nominated students pouring expensive energy drinks over their heads– not exactly cost-effective!), things do not improve for Noah. One bright spot is Rina, who is bound and determined to start a school newspaper even if the administration is less than thrilled with her attempts. When a bear is spotted near the school with a bucket stuck to its head, Noah fixates on getting the bear help, and Rina takes advantage of his fixation to convince him to work on the paper with her. Another bright spot is Jeff, his guardian, who is struggling to do the right thing by Noah and steadfastly sticks by him. Noah also must deal with former football-playing friends who have turned on him, not wanting to talk to his mother, and managing to get through his schoolwork while dealing with everything else on his plate. Noah and Rina manage to get more attention focused on the bear, and this activity helps Noah make peace with other things in his life. [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
The Colors of the Rain by R. L. Toalson
Great review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
Paulie lives in Texas in 1972 and is having a difficult life. His father, who struggled with alcohol after coming back from Vietnam, has been in a fight that left one man dead, and then was in a car crash and shot by friends of the man he killed. Paulie’s mother is unable to cope, and after her struggles with prescription medication, Paulie and his sister Charlotte (Charlie) end up in the care of their Aunt Bee. Bee is a school principal and wants the children to come to her school even though it is the center of an integration battle. White parents are upset that black children will be attending their children’s school and are threatening to make their own district. Paulie, who is very artistic, find refuge with Mr. Langely (who is black) in the school art room, but he also feels some rage at a black boy, Greg, and picks on him. His aunt isn’t happy, and Paulie has to work through his emotions at his own difficulties in order to deal with the racial tensions at his school. There are tensions within his own family as well, as secrets come out about Aunt Bee’s past, as well as her current relationships. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo
Review by Randomly Reading:
“Beverly has always been known for running away from home and being returned to an alcoholic mother who just wasn’t very interested in her. Now, she’s done with running away, and after burying her beloved dog Buddy, Beverly figures there’s nothing to keep her at home anymore and so she decides to simply leave.” [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“My first thought on this was “Why don’t I have more books in my library about alcoholic parents? Why haven’t I read more recently?” It seems like there were a lot more titles dealing with this issue in the 1970s and 80s, and there are certainly a growing number of books about parents struggling with opioid addiction. Aside from Friend’s Lush (2006), I can’t think of any other titles, so it was good to see the topic of alcoholic parents depicted. Including Veronica’s interest in softball was a great choice, and will widen the appeal of the book. Friend drama is an ever-present part of the middle school experience, and Veronica’s struggles with balancing her friendships with Claudia and Libby are realistically drawn. I also appreciated the positive depiction of teachers and librarians.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Workbook Helping Books for Children Working with an Adult
These workbooks guide kids living in an alcoholic home to educate them that This Is Not Their Fault, help them analyze their feelings and teach them coping strategies in a step-by-step format allowing them to write and draw in the books. These books work equally well with a therapist or an adult relative who can systematically meet on a schedule through a chapter per meeting. It offers support to kids by helping them express their feelings and gives them the education to move forward.
My Dad Loves Me, My Dad has a Disease ( A Child’s View Living with Addiction) by Claudia Black
This workbook would work especially well with very young children and it’s filled with drawings by other kids coping with the same issues. For those kids who might need encouragement to express how they are feeling, this book supplies illustrations to make them feel less alone. [workbook, ages 5 and up]
An Elephant In the Living Room The Children’s Book by Jill M. Hastings and Marion H. Typpo
Jill Hastings wrote this workbook because: “I still remember the confusion and loneliness I felt while growing up in a family where drinking was a problem. That’s why I wrote this book.” Her intention is that it will help kids understand that alcoholism is a disease, learn new ways to handle their feelings and learn to like themselves better. [workbook, ages 9 and up]
I Can Be Me: A Helping Book for Children From Troubled Families by Dianne S. O’Connor, Ed.D.
This is a workbook that educates and supports young children growing up with addicted family members including drug and alcohol addiction. This step-by-step helpful program centers around teaching kids to cope with problems they understand so that their coping patterns are healthy. “Untreated, children of the chemically dependent often adopt behaviors which predispose them to addiction, abusive/or addicted marriage partners and various other mental health problems. They experience difficulty developing healthy close relationships, have trouble expressing feelings and often suffer from low self-esteem.” [workbook, ages 4 and up]
Graphic Novel on Living in an Alcoholic Family
Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
From KidLitFrenzy: Britt and Arsenault teamed up again for another powerful story. Written in the style of a graphic novel, the story explores the impact of alcohol on a family as viewed from the eyes of a child. The story also has a coming of age/first love sub-story. Beautifully told and illustrated. [graphic novel, ages 10 and up]
Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
Review by Ms. Yingling Reads:
“When Gary Dunn died, he left behind Isaiah, his mother, and his young sister Charlie. It’s been difficult, especially for the mother, who has had a lot of difficulty with the loss, has turned to drink, and has stopped going to work. Because of this, the family is living in a hotel that Isaiah calls the Smoky Inn, because of the strong odor of cigarettes. Isaiah has a good friend, Sneaky, who he helps with his candy resale business, even if it means going to a somewhat sketchy store his mother doesn’t like to get their inventory. He struggles a bit in school, especially when classmate Angel gets on his case. He is sent to the office frequently, but the staff is usually understanding of his loss. Isaiah loves to write, just like his father did, and takes comfort in reading the notebook of stories that his father left behind, including stories in which Isaiah is depicted as a superhero who gets his powers from beans and rice. Getting those beans and rice proves harder for the mother as time wears on, and Isaiah is mortified when the family gets groceries at Seven Baskets, a food pantry, and he sees Angel there. Trying to help out, Isaiah goes to the local barbershop to ask if he can earn some money sweeping up hair; he knows that his mother and Charlie take great comfort in going to see Miz Rita at their own hair salon. He also spends a lot of time at the library, especially when he and Angel are assigned a project together. When his mother doesn’t return to work, she gets behind on paying for the room, and the police come and kick the family out. After spending the night in their car and struggling through a day at school, Isaiah and his mother end up retrieving Charlie from Miz Rita’s. The mother breaks down and tells Miz Rita how she has been struggling. The family stays with her for a while, and the mother eventually goes to rehab for a month. Isaiah has entered one of his father’s stories in a writing contest, and he also works with the librarian to clean out a storage room in the library to turn into the Gary Dunn Writing Center to honor his father. With support from their community, the family starts to find a path forward.” [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
p.s. More book lists on difficult topics:
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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.