One Step at a Time: 13 Books About Blended Families
by Devon A. Corneal
As both a stepdaughter and a stepparent, I know that navigating the world of blended families can be challenging. When I was growing up, divorce was not the norm and stories with families that looked like mine weren’t common. Because stories help kids process their feelings and validate their experiences, it’s important that children in blended families read books that contain characters like them. Those characters might be angry, anxious, exited, fearful, confused, or overwhelmed and might struggle to fit into a new family dynamic. Seeing their experiences as normal can help kids (and parents) work through challenging times to build families that, while new, are full of love and respect. We’ve found a few of our favorite new and old titles that show all the complexities and joys that come with stepfamilies.
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and this board book celebrates that. Whether they’re big, small, or blended, every family is unique. Babies and toddlers will love the bright colors and cheerful text in this heartfelt book.
(Ages 0 – 3)
Cat Dog Dog
When their parents move in together, Cat, Dog, and Dog will have to adjust to their new blended family. Just when they get used to each other, along comes a baby. Children will love this hilarious picture book about the challenges and joys that come with combining two families into one.
(Ages 3 – 6)
Families, Families, Families!
Portraits of cartoon animals show every kind of family. From single moms to large, blended families, this rhyming picture book is an excellent conversation starter for parents and caregivers. Children will love seeing all the different families and finding one that looks like theirs.
(Ages 3 – 7)
Life With My Family
Life in this family can be chaotic! When a little girl gets tired of the noise, she imagines what things would be like if her family members were birds, insects, rodents, jellyfish, and lions. With a blended family at the center, this silly story celebrates the chaos that comes with family life.
(Ages 3 – 7)
The Thing About Leftovers
Fizzy wants to win the Southern Living cook-off, but she has a lot on her plate with her parents’ divorce, a suspiciously flawless stepmom, her mom’s rude boyfriend, and feeling like she just doesn’t fit anywhere in her family. Trying to be a good kid in the midst of it all is exhausting. At turns funny and poignant, The Thing About Leftovers gracefully handles the angst of both middle school and stepfamilies.
The List of Things That Will Not Change
When her mom and dad got divorced, Bea felt like her life turned upside down. Now, her dad is getting married to his boyfriend, and Bea can’t wait to meet her new stepsister. But creating a new family isn’t always easy, and she’ll learn that the process comes with plenty of ups and downs. This hopeful and heartfelt story is perfect for kids that have experienced a significant change in their family.
(Ages 8 – 12)
Jen isn’t thrilled about moving to live on a farm with her mom’s new boyfriend. And when she meets her two new stepsisters, she knows that things will never be the same. Adjusting to life on the farm is difficult for Jen, and she isn’t sure how she fits into her new family. Inspired by the author’s childhood experiences, this graphic novel captures the complex emotions that come with blending families.
(Ages 8 – 12)
Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen
Olivia wants to get on a game show so she can fly to California and see her dad, who lives there with his new family. As she prepares for her try-out, she’s surprised to receive help from her brother, her mom, her almost-stepdad, and, most unlikely, her arch-nemesis. Will all of their hard work pay off? And will Olivia get the family she wants in the end? You have to read to find out!
(Ages 8 - 12)
The Stepmom Shake-upAvailable from:
When some people from church suggest that her dad start dating again, Grace isn’t happy. Ever since her mom died, Grace and her dad have been inseparable, and she doesn’t want to share him with anyone else. With a little help from her friends, Grace comes up with a plan to keep Dad single. Pranks, mayhem, and heartfelt moments make this novel a must-read!
(Ages 8 – 12)Available from:
A Place to Hang the Moon
When their grandmother dies, three siblings use the wartime evacuation of children from London to the English countryside as an opportunity to find a new family. They bounce from home to home until they meet a librarian that could give them the stability they want. This uplifting novel is for kids who love stories about family, hope, and history.
(Ages 8 – 12)
Lord of the Deep
Mikey has a great relationship with his stepfather, Bill, and this year he gets the chance to be the deckhand on Bill’s deep-sea charter boat. Fishing is only one thing Mikey will learn from Bill this summer as the two embark on many thrilling adventures in this coming-of-age tale.
Tell Me Three Things
At first glance, this book looks like your typical YA rom-com, but it’s much more than that. When her father elopes with a woman he met online, Jessie finds herself in a new home, school, and family. She has to navigate new relationships with her stepmother and stepbrother while trying to fit in at an upscale prep school. With themes of family, friendship, and first love, this YA novel explores the turmoil and joy that comes with starting over in a new place.
Peas and CarrotsAvailable from:
Teens will love this memorable story about two teenage girls discovering what it means to be a family. When Dess’s mom gets arrested, she goes to live with her brother and his foster family. But her new foster sister, Hope, is hopelessly naive, and Dess can’t see them ever becoming friends. With time and encouragement from their brother, Dess and Hope set their differences aside and embrace the things that make them sisters.
(Ages 13+)Available from:
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2021.