First Books About Divorce | Milestones

Going through a divorce can be difficult for everyone involved. For young children, who may not fully understand why it is happening and may even feel partly responsible, it can be a particularly overwhelming time. To help little ones comprehend the situation and process their feelings, the following titles may be helpful.

Going through a divorce can be difficult for everyone involved. For young children, who may not fully understand why it is happening and may even feel partly responsible, it can be a particularly overwhelming time. To help little ones comprehend the situation and process their feelings, the following titles may be helpful.

Five book covers from the list

RedReviewStar When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt. illus. by Jill Mcelmurry. Houghton Harcourt. ISBN 9780152166885.
Set in the southwestern desert, this adorable, humble tale of how a young coyote copes with divorced parents will win children's hearts. The cadence of the story, with its soothing repetition, balances the new dual-home reality of so many children today with the old comfort of Home where a child feels "loved through and through."

RedReviewStar Emily’s Blue Period by Cathleen Daly. illus. by Lisa Brown. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. ISBN 9781596434691.
Divided into five vignettes labeled as chapters, the story is that of Emily, a young girl who loves art—particularly Pablo Picasso's unique way of portraying the world through cubism. When her parents separate, both she and her younger brother struggle to cope with the new reality. This book does a beautiful job of using the arts to show Emily's process as she grieves, accepts, and adapts to the changes in her family. This is not a straightforward "What is divorce" story but rather a window into one girl's complicated emotional journey. It's a first purchase for libraries that have a section of picture books for older readers, and a high-quality, nondidactic book for parents and caregivers looking to start conversations about divorce.

My Two Homes by Claudia Harrington. illus by Zoe Persico. ABDO/Magic Wagon. ISBN 9781624021091.
A simple and approachable glimpse at blended families and divorce. This title has Lenny, the class reporter and photographer, going home with a new Student of the Week to learn about her family. Skye lives part of the time with her father and part of the time with her mother and stepdad. Lenny is impressed with the girl's two bedrooms, loving family, and wicked curve ball. This is a warm and idealized look at blended families with happiness at each end. A pleasantly painted picture of blended family life for the primary school crowd.

Divorce Is the Worst by Anastasia Higginbotham. illus by author. Feminist. ISBN 9781558618800.
This insightful and attractive picture book looks at divorce from a child's perspective. The title opens on a gender-neutral and ethnically ambiguous child being told by (unseen) parents that they're planning on splitting up. The child addresses readers directly about divorce while going about daily life (riding a bike, going to the bathroom). Higginbotham is honest with kids, acknowledging unpleasant truths, such as typical emotional responses (anger, guilt, sorrow) and what to expect from parents (crying, fighting, even offering kids bribes to soften the blow). While divorce books are plentiful, this one stands above the rest.

Weekend Dad by Naseem Hrab. illus. by Frank Viva. Groundwood. ISBN 9781773061085.
On Monday morning, the boy’s father moves out of their house. He is just a bus ride away, but now the boy is coming to terms with having two separate homes—one with each parent. His father does his best to adhere to the boy’s routines and explains that even though his life is changing, he is loved. Hrab’s story is simple yet complex. The story reminds children that they are loved, even if their lives are changing. Separation and divorce are common, and this book is a great recommendation for any family dealing with them.

The other five covers from the list

Tuesday Is Daddy’s Day by Elliot Kreloff. illus. by author. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823448913. Children whose parents have shared custody are lucky in a lot of ways and this book begins with our protagonist pointing out some of them. She has two different colored bedrooms with two different kinds of beds. Daddy has a partner, Harry, who lives with him, while Mommy lives alone. The unnamed narrator is loved in both homes and enjoys the time she spends in each, reading and doing things together. She is settled into this reassuring routine until one Tuesday her mother shows up instead of her father. This is a positive story about shared custody and its possible effects. For libraries looking for more titles on this topic, this is a perfect choice.

A Tale of Two Seders by Mindy Avra Portnoy. Kar-Ben. ISBN 9780822599074.
"The year after my mom and dad stopped being married to each other, I went to two seders in two places. One at Dad's apartment, and one at Mom's house," explains a young girl. She describes the six Passover meals that she has shared with her divorced parents over the last three years. However, the charoset, the traditional dish of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine, never tastes quite right, and the girl dreams of her whole family celebrating the holiday together again. When her parents surprise her by joining together at the synagogue's community seder, the girl realizes that her dream has come true. And, as her mother explains to her: "families are like charoset. Some have more ingredients...But each one is tasty in its own way."

Why Do Families Change?: Our First Talk About Separation and Divorce by Jillian Roberts. illus. by Cindy Revell. Orca. ISBN 9781459809512.
Using upbeat, colorful illustrations and straightforward text, Roberts reassures kids that they are loved and that divorce or separation is not their fault. The author defines divorce and separation in terms that not only are easy for small children to understand but also lend themselves well to sparking discussions. Potentially scary concepts such as moving are made accessible: "If your parents are separating or getting a divorce, know that change is coming, which can make you feel sad, scared and even angry. These feelings are normal." Back matter addresses custody issues and blended families. A helpful tool for adults seeking to explain divorce to elementary students.

Always Mom, Forever Dad by Joanna Rowland. illus. by Penny Weber. Tilbury House. ISBN 9780884483670.
The premise of this book is that children of divorce who must alternate between households are still surrounded by love. A variety of children from different ethnic backgrounds are depicted enjoying fun activities with one parent and then with the other. When the children miss their other parent, the adult they are with encourages phone calls or sings songs that the other parent sang; connection with the non-present parent is never discouraged or disparaged. The simple and straightforward text would be comforting to a child faced with this situation. A serviceable addition for those in need of the subject matter.

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton. illus. by author. Feiwel & Friends. ISBN 9781250034892.
Young Henry and his dog, Pomegranate, travel from his mother's apartment to his father's house every other day. Children will notice the marked difference in the two places. Pomegranate notices as well. For instance, there is no place for a dog to dig at Papa's home. One day, the pup is missing, and Henry has a good idea where he might be found: his old house, "the place where we all used to live together." This book can fill a gap in collections because Stanton brings the story to a satisfactory conclusion with a simple understanding for children who live in two homes.

See also: Three Middle Grade Titles Featuring Divorced and Separated Parents

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