OMG We Still Recommend!: Adventures with One-Parent Families

It’s We Recommend! In which we post a request that's been sent to us, and do our best to get that person the right book. Know a kid who needs a book to read? Send us (thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com) his or her likes, dislikes, favorites, quirks, and any other reading information that might be helpful, and we will think on it, and pose it to our oh-so-helpful readers. And look in the comments—all the best recommendations are there.

Oh, it has been a long, long time! Books have come and gone, blogs have vanished, and I have been doing a bunch of other things, but at the back of my mind ye olde Diamond in the Window has been simmering. And then I got a real live email in my inbox, asking us to recommend a book, and I thought: yes! In this difficult and troubling world, of course I want to recommend books if I can. So let's get the old gang together and see if we can figure out a book for this reader.

Recently I’ve been bemoaning the lack of children’s books that do not fetishize the nuclear family—and I thought, I know who might be able to help!

So, brief background, recently separated from my husband.  Our son is eight.  He loves the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels, Wayside School.  He’s enjoyed a few Roald Dahl books but not enough that we’ve read them repeatedly, and he still loves picture books—Island Boy by Barbara Cooney is a favorite right now.  He likes adventure and humor and a little bit of magic, and self-sufficient kid protagonists.  I’d really love to have something wonderful to read with him that features a single parent or divorced parents or same-sex parents as something unremarkable, you know? Not a book ABOUT divorce, but a book where some kid with divorced parents has a fabulous adventure. I would so appreciate suggestions!

Now this is a challenge! It's tough—a lot of books that have one parent, but are too mature for an 8-year-old—To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance, One Hundred Spaghetti Strings,and When You Reach Me all fall under that category. So great! But maybe more for someone who is 10, or even 12? Then there are books that are just right age-wise and have a single parent, but part of the story arc is about matching that parent up again to a mate: Half-Magic by Edward Eager fits here nicely, and it is wonderful, but I am not sure that this is a message that is comfortable. The Roald Dahl books make a lot of sense, but our kid here is not loving them. So I have come up with these old school books that I think might just possibly work. Maybe. 

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Oh how I love The Magician's Nephew. Digory Kirke lives with his mother only, who is very sick (so that's a bit of a sticky situation) and his foolish terrible uncle. It's magical and wonderful and I still think about the magic rings. So—maybe. Though the sick mom thing is troubling.

And then there's this:

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I think I never knew that this was a sequel to Freaky Friday, but it didn't matter—it was great. The narrator is Annabel, but Boris, who is a major character, lives with his mom and is the hub around which the story revolves. And it's funny, and magical, and terrific.

But! I am 100% sure that there are more modern books that would be even more perfect. So, readers, if there are any of you out there still: help a family out! What should this 8-year-old read?

4 thoughts on “OMG We Still Recommend!: Adventures with One-Parent Families

  1. Hey, how about Diana Wynne Jones?? I think The family in Howl’s is a single mom, no? In any case, the focus is def. not on standard nuclear family..,
    Or maybe I just adore her!


  2. Thank you all! I’m looking forward to trying these–Diana Wynne Jones sounds fabulous! I can’t believe I didn’t know about her.


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