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Book Review: Books about divorce for kids

Do you have any recommended books about…

No matter what the topic, reading a relevant book can help parents navigate through tough times.  They are helpful partly because books give us guidance on important concepts to cover, and a script to follow, but also because the pictures give our kids a concrete visual image to go along with our words.  Today’s post is a collection of brief reviews of some of my favorite books on divorce for younger kids.  (A list of recommended books for parents is available here.)

I’ll start with my favorite book for the youngest kids: Mama and Daddy Bear’s Divorce, by Cornelia Maude Spelman.

I’ve reviewed this one before, but it’s worthy of reposting: The story is about “Dinah” (a bear,) who loves her family but tells us that: “…one day, something sad happened.  Mama and Daddy said they were going to get a divorce.”   Dinah talks about her feelings (sad and scared) and some of her inner questions.  She talks to her parents about her feelings, and both parents reassure her that they will always be her mama/daddy.  As the book progresses, she describes how she spends time with both parents separately.  Her parents make some mistakes, but the theme of parental love and involvement persists.  The book concludes by saying that after time she feels less sad, and that her parents and sister will always be her family.  It’s a peaceful and positive ending.

Was it the Chocolate Pudding? by Sandra Levins is another favorite.  The story unfolds with two brothers making a big mess with some chocolate pudding.  The next day their parents tell the boys that they are getting a divorce.  The older brother puts 2 & 2 together (gets 5) and thinks it’s because of the chocolate pudding, and is therefore his fault.  This gets sorted out in the end, and the kids are portrayed as adjusting well.  This is a great book for really focusing on the fact that divorce is an adult matter, and really addresses the (all too common) misbelief in kids that they are the cause of the problems.  As a small note, this book is unique in that the father stays in the home and has primary custody (not what is usually portrayed.)  I highly recommend this one.

Dinosaurs Divorce, by Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown may be the most well-known book about divorce for kids.  It’s not my favorite, perhaps because of the comic-strip format, but it’s still a good book.  It’s an informative style, not a narrative story.  It covers all the basic info that kids need to know about divorce, including why parents divorce, custody, feelings, holidays, step-parents and more.  Think of it as a reference book for your kid.  Good to have on the shelf.

At Daddy’s on Saturdays, by Linda Walvoord Girard is an older book, but I like it for its realism.  After this school-aged girl’s parents divorce, her father’s custody rights are more like visitation.  One time he even forgets to come.  (ouch!)  But that happens in real life, and for kids for whom that’s true, it’s good to have a book that mirrors their experience.

Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt is really a story about a young girl and her trouble-making dog, who happen to live in a split-custody arrangement.  Really, this is a narrative story that any kid would enjoy (the dog causes lots of trouble!) and the divorce angle is very minor to the story.  But, that’s the reason I like it.  It’s not the book that will explain divorce to your child, nor the book that will help her figure out her emotions, but it is the book that will show that there are all sorts of normal.  That’s a good thing.

Two Homes, by Claire Masurel is another good one for the youngest kids.  The main character is a young boy named Alex, who goes back and forth between both parents’ homes.  The book focuses on one theme–that Alex is loved by both parents.  The last line of the book is particularly sweet: “We love you wherever we are. And we love you wherever you are.”

If you have a favorite that’s not listed here, please leave a comment telling me about it.  I’d love to add to my list!

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(and if you do, thanks!)

Book Review: Always and Forever

Always and Forever by Alan Durant is a child’s picture book about death, grief, and moving on.  It’s very much the sort of book that I like to review here.  But this review came about completely accidentally, and the surprise ultimately made me like it even more.

I sometimes check out kids’ books from the library with a minimum of attention to the content of the book.  If the cover looks good, I open to the middle.  If those pages don’t have too many words, and the illustrations are decent, the book goes in to my stack.  My librarian readers are probably cringing now.  :^)

So, due to my neglectful vetting, I sat down to read this book to my daughter today without a clue of what it was about.  I figured it out as soon as I looked at the inside dust jacket, and had a moment’s pause.  Our family dog died a month ago, and we talked about death and grief a lot then, but a story about death and grief seemed out of place today.

But I believe that one of the shortcomings of our modern culture is that we fool ourselves into thinking that death is rare and predictable.  It is neither, and I want my daughter to know the vocabulary, and the concepts (especially that things get better!) about death before she has to experience death with an emotional component (there’s a big difference in the emotional impact of reading a book about death and having someone you love die.)  So I read the book.  And then I wrote this blog entry.  ;^)

I’ve heard many parents of young kids say that they want to protect their children from the ills of the world.  Actually, I’ve probably said it myself–it’s a pretty common and reasonable parenting belief.  But, death isn’t really an “ill” of the world.  Death is a normal part of life, and I was reminded that it’s the surprise of death that can sometimes be most painful.

When I teach parents about how to talk with their kids about sex (see my other blog) I talk a lot about the importance of giving the youngest kids the vocabulary to identify their body parts and functions.  I remembered this as I was reading Always and Forever earlier today.  I felt like I was giving the structure/framework of the “concept of death” to my daughter.  Not as fun as some of our favorite books, but I was glad I did anyway.  Check it out from your local public library or click below to look at it on amazon.

(note: I originally wrote this several months ago but it somehow didn’t get published, so I’m putting it up now.)