Yes folks it's time for We Recommend, in which you write in asking for specific recommendations, and we use our collective knowledge to come up with the perfect book. Interested? Write in and tell us your kid's age, tastes, other stuff—anything that might be relevant—and we'll do our part. Oh yeah, and the comments? The comments are the best part.
Here's the thing: life, children, and love—they all entail pain. There's just no escaping it. And some of the pain is good, like when your small sweet people become large independent people, and leave you to forge their way in the world. It's wonderful, and it's painful. And some of the pain is terrible and to no good end. And some of it you just don't know where it's going to end for you, you only have to keep going with it. Here's what we have:
Just found out from husband of 10 years that he’s leaving and it’s for someone else. Total shocker. So the kids are a boy 8 (huge harry potter, 39 clues, rick riordan reader) and a girl 6—just learning to read. loves tumtum and nutmeg series read to her, Nancy drew, Magic pony books. Any recs for books about divorce or with families who experience it and don’t perish?
First, let us all wish you a quick and speedy recovery from this heart- and family-ache.
And second…sheesh. It's not easy, but then you already know that. I would like to start with the boy, and it's frustrating because so many excellent books in which the family is divorced seem to be about girls and their feelings (Abby Hayes comes to mind). In general what I think makes sense is to read something comforting—anything comforting, whether it's Harry Pottor or the 39 Clues. But I get the whole idea of trying to find some reference to non-perishing.
I was really hoping for some Louis Sachar, or some Jerry Spinelli, but I can't remember specifically divorced families there (though maybe Loser has one—but that's not really the way to go, is it?). And I want it to be a boy main character, because it just seems like it would help, somehow. It's funny to realize just how many of the kids in books have two parents, a man and a woman, and how less common that is among the parents of my children's friends.
So I looked and I thought and I searched around, and this is what I found:
Major caveat: I HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK.
It's Beverly Cleary, for Pete's sake. Her work is awesome. Says various websites: it's the story of a boy, who lives alone with his mother, who writes to his favorite author. Key point: his parents are divorced. It was hard. He does OK. I wish it was more fantasy related, as that is what this boy clearly loves. So please, anyone who knows more, speak up!
For the girl—well, she's only 6, after all. Six is very, very small. It might make sense to have something as simple as Dinosaurs Divorce, which everyone seems to love. But my favorite book about being a kid with divorced parents was written by my friend's (divorced) mom was Lucky Wilma:
(Image courtesy of Biblio.com)
It tells the story of a girl's day with her dad—a Saturday, which is the one day per week she sees him—and how they just hang around and have fun instead of doing what they usually do, which is something very structured. It's very 1970s, but very comforting, if also honestly acknowledging the sadness. It ends with him walking her home to her mom, "And then he went home to his house."
And for the mom—yes I know she didn't ask for one, but it's just such a hard situation and we heard of a good book and, well, here it is:
Because, of course, the person who really worries whether the family will perish is the parent. A very smart divorced dad told me about this author and this book. Its message is key: kids are strong. Life is hard. No one thinks getting divorced is what you want, but you can and will survive it, and so will your kids.
We here are rooting for you.
But please, everyone, there must be more books, especially for the boy! Give us your wisdom in the comments.
10 thoughts on “We Recommend: Books for Divorce”
The hero’s family in Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series has assorted half siblings and he’s adopted I think. However it isn’t the main issue of the books at all, or even an issue at all really. Divorces / separations are all well in the past, and everyone has made it.
So, points for fantasy, boy and not perishing, but doesn’t acknowledge any of the emotions involved either at the time of the split or later. Oh and there are 2 parental figures in the household.
Jacqueline Wilson is good at remembering that not every family has two parents who live in the same house, but writes primarily for girls. (Who is good at remembering that boys have emotions too and may even like to read about them sometimes?) Anne Fine also wrote some about stepparents, including Goggle Eyes. However I haven’t read this for a long time, so can’t verify whether the sentiments in it are good.
For the younger, would Two of Everything by Babbette Cole suit her? Have a look at the Amazon comments to try to guage that, or browze it yourself, as some families love it and some hate it. Less controversial is It’s not your fault Koko Bear, which is a much more straightforward talking about the issue book, and very reassuring that the child is still loved and in no way to blame.
Sadly, I have to recommend against the Beverly Cleary book unless the Dad is truly going awol and won’t be around on a regular and predictable basis. I took it out from the library on CD when I was in the beginning stages of divorce. In the book, the Dad is a trucker who is rarely around. And the book is about his unavailability more than the divorce itself. Also, the Dinosaurs Divorce book is a little controversial b/c it raises (and illustrates) the possibility of parents abusing alcohol. But otherwise pretty straightforward.
But, in the Judy Blume Fudge books, Peter, Fudge’s older brother, has a best friend whose parents get divorced, and it’s hard, but the kid, Jimmy Fargo, does okay. I like it b/c divorce is not a focus, it is part of the fabric of life. And the books are funny and engaging and good read alouds. So it has divorce, but not about divorce. Good luck.
This one is a recommendation for the girl rather than the boy, and it’s also not actually about divorce–but that’s why I like it. It’s one of those books where the parents just happen to be separated (a fact that is mentioned through a comfortable conversation between dad and daughter) and everyone seems to be doing okay. “Two Old Potatoes and Me” is the title and it’s about a girl and her dad who plant a garden of potatoes together.
I would second the thoughts above about Mr. Henshaw. Good book, but quite painful since the dad is essentially an unreliable jerk.
I started reading The Spiderwick Chronicles after reading this post, and it’s about a mom and three kids who move into aunt lucinda’s creepy old house after their dad leaves them. It’s fantasy – troublesome faeries appear to live in the house too.
If she’s still sharing picture books with the 6-year-old, Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt is wonderful.
I feel terrible that we don’t have more. One reader suggested these: http://www.amazon.com/Mrs-Vole-Vet-Happy-Families/dp/0140378804/ref=pd_sim_b_2
The Happy Families books have all sorts of families, but they sound perfect for the 6-year-old, less so for the 8-year old. It’s amazing what a difference two years can make. I am still searching.
I haven’t read this myself, but Booktrusted suggested this for 7 to 10m year olds on the subject of divorce. It’s got fantasy, tough times, and making it through. Worth a look anyway.
How about these:
Loon Summer, by Barbara Santucci, or As the Crow Flies, by Elizabeth Winthrop.
This is a late entry but I found one more accidentally–“Boundless Grace” is a sequel to the more well-known book “Amazing Grace” where she goes to visit her father and his new family in Africa. The whole family talks about the situation with an openness and frankness that is pretty nice, I think.
I adored Dear Mr. Henshaw as a kid. Unfortunately, I have no other suggestions for the children, but am on the lookout for this sort of thing and will check back in if I find any.
If the mom is in the mood for reading and you’ll allow me to make a suggestion for her, then I would suggest Barbara Colorosso’s Parenting Through Crisis. I haven’t actually read it (quite yet) but it was recommended to me by someone I trust and is supposed to be very good. I’m reading one of her other books and I like her levelheaded, loving approach so far.