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All Ages

Ain’t Nothing But a Family Thing: Books About All Kinds of Families

by Devon A. Corneal

all kinda of families
Image credit: Cavan Images/Getty Images

When I was in elementary school, someone gave me a book about divorce. I remember its purple cover, but not its title. It was the only book I had ever read that addressed the issues that kids like me faced and it made me feel a little less alone. Divorce was uncommon among my friends and I didn’t have many people to talk to who understood the pitfalls of fractured and blended families.

Thankfully, the times have changed. Today’s kids can read a host of books written to help explain different family relationships. In addition to books about divorce, kids and parents can find books that explain how all sorts of families are created in all sorts of ways, including adoption, same-sex parents, and blended families. Stories have expanded to be as diverse as the types of families we see around us every day. Here are just a few.

  • Adoptive Families

  • My Family is Forever

    by Nancy Carlson

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    This heartwarming picture book shares the story of an international adoption: how one little girl became an adored daughter, how she made her mom and dad parents, and the long journey that brought them together.
    (Ages 3 – 5)

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  • Wonderful You

    by Lauren McLaughlin, illustrated by Meilo So

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    The wonderful part about this adoption story is that it begins with the birth mother, centering her experience as she lovingly carries her child and looks for the perfect adoptive parents. Author Lauren McLaughlin is an adoptive mother and created this book to celebrate her child’s birth mother, and the new family they all created together.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Three Times Lucky

    by Sheila Turnage

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    In the book that introduces us to the Mo & Dale Mysteries series and plucky, 11-year-old Mo LoBeau herself, Mo will do whatever it takes to protect her adoptive family. The Colonel and Miss Lana have taken care of Mo ever since she washed ashore as a baby, and now she’ll have to use her detective skills to keep them all together.
    (Ages 10+)

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  • When I Was Summer

    by J.B. Howard

    Nora doesn’t really fit into the mold of her family. No one has her same passion for music; no one’s as naturally impulsive. One summer, with her rock band, Nora sets off on a faux tour that’s really a cover to track down for her birth mother, whom Nora hopes will have some answers — but the answers she gets might not be the ones she asked for.
    (Young Adult)

  • Divorced Parents

  • Two Homes

    by Claire Masurel, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

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    Two Homes is a positive, simple, and clear book for children about the process of separation and divorce. Reinforcing the idea that children are loved by both parents, no matter where they live, this is a great story for younger children.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Standing on My Own Two Feet

    by Tamara Schmitz

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    Affirming and gentle, this one assures readers that a divorce doesn’t mean their life will be completely different. Addison’s mom and dad will still be on the sidelines of his soccer game, and while he sometimes misses one parent while he’s with the other, he also knows he’s always loved.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • The List of Things That Will Not Change

    by Rebecca Stead

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    When Bea’s parents get a divorce, they start a list for Bea of things that will never change. But plenty of things do change. Bea goes back and forth between her mom’s house and her dad’s, so often that her cousin nicknames her “Ping-Pong,” and eventually, her father announces plans to marry his boyfriend, Jesse, which means Bea will have a stepsister. Rebecca Stead beautifully captures the emotional experience of 10-year-old Bea — grieving, adjusting, and thriving during one of life’s biggest changes.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • The Divorce Express

    by Paula Danziger, introduction by Ann M. Martin

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    It’s hard enough to start at a new school, but for ninth-grader Phoebe, it’s even more difficult to get her footing: every weekend, she has to hop on the “Divorce Express,” a commuter bus that takes her back to her mom’s in New York City. Phoebe struggles with competing loyalties between her parents as each moves on at a different pace; meanwhile, she learns who she is even as she occupies two different worlds.
    (Ages 10+)

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  • Single Parents

  • Across the Bay

    by Carlos Aponte

    Little Carlitos loves his mom and Abuela, but misses his dad. He hops a ferry to the heart of Puerto Rico after this mother tells him that Papi is "across the bay." He searches all day, but it takes some kind words from a guard at the Old San Juan castle to help him realize that his family, the people that love him, are home waiting for him. A book that radiates love and the strength of family for any child struggling with the absence of a parent.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

  • Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

    by Juana Medina

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    Juana loves her life: she loves Mami and her dog, Lucas, and she loves visiting her abuelos or her cousins when Mami is out. That seems to be more often these days, and there’s more lipstick and dancing, too. It turns out, Mami is in love. Luis is kind and interesting, but sometimes Juana wishes it was just her and Mami again. A wonderful role model, Juana is quirky, big-hearted, and in touch with her feelings.
    (Ages 5 – 8)

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  • Rocky Road

    by Rose Kent

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    Tess’s mom has always been full of big ideas, so it’s not totally out of the ordinary for Ma to decide to move Tess and her brother to Schenectady, New York, to live in a senior citizens’ community and open an ice cream shop. Tess loves her mom’s spirit, but she doesn’t know how to talk about those difficult days, when Ma can’t seem to get out of bed. Luckily for Tess and her family, they’ve got a whole community around them to help when life gets rocky.
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • A Million Miles from Boston

    by Karen Day

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    Lucy’s in middle school now, but that doesn’t mean she’s ever stopped missing her mom, who died when she was six. Every summer, Lucy and her dad go to Pierson Point, Maine, Lucy’s favorite place, because nothing ever changes in Pierson Point. Or so she thought. Now, her rude science partner, Ian, is there for the summer, too, and Lucy’s dad has a new girlfriend. Will Pierson Point still be everything she needs it to be?
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • Blended Families

  • The Ring Bearer

    by Floyd Cooper

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    Jackson is preparing for his big day as ring bearer at Mama’s wedding. His new stepsister, Sophie, is the flower girl, and Jackson needs to set a good example for the younger girl. This story of two families blending into one is full of joy and warmth.
    (Ages 3 – 7)

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  • Stepping Stones

    by Lucy Knisley

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    When Jen’s mom falls in love, they leave the city and move to Peapod Farm, where Jen feels completely out of her element. Especially compared to Walter’s daughters, who grew up among chicken coops and farmers’ markets and all the other parts of Peapod life. Will Jen find her spot in this new and unlikely pod?
    (Ages 8 – 12)

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  • To Night Owl From Dogfish

    by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

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    Bookish Avery and fearless Bett have little in common, but when their dads fall in love and send them to the same summer camp to get to know each other, their adventures result in a close bond. When their dads’ relationship hits the rocks, Avery and Bett learn a lot about what goes into a relationship — friendships and partnerships, alike.
    (Ages 10+)

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  • The Thing About Leftovers

    by C.C. Payne

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    Fizzy knows one thing for sure: there’s nothing worse than leftover spaghetti. And leftover spaghetti is what Fizzy feels like: her dad is already remarried, and now her mom is talking about remarrying, too. Which makes Fizzy (or so she believes) the unwanted leftovers of her parents’ marriage. Luckily, Fizzy finds comfort in her new friends and her quest to win the Southern Living cook-off, as her family grows around her.
    (Ages 10+)

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2020.