This post was written by NCTE member Kasey Reyna Short. It’s part of Build Your Stack,® an NCTE initiative focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. Build Your Stack® provides a forum for contributors to share books from their classroom experience; inclusion in a blog post does not imply endorsement or promotion of specific books by NCTE.
The frequency in which divorce occurs does not lessen the impact on families. It requires children to navigate new family dynamics and often puts them in situations where adults are grappling to find their new normal. I experienced divorce as a child, am raising my own daughter in a blended family, and have seen the impact of divorce on many students throughout my career.
Through this book list, I hope to provide titles that will help children of divorce feel a little less alone, as they relate to characters who serve as mirrors into their own experience and windows through which they see how others may experience changing family dynamics. (Rudine Sims Bishop)
The books in this list provide examples of many different ways to be a family, and include characters who represent a variety of emotions including being shaken by surprise, mourning the loss of a family unit, consistently missing one parent, feeling worried about holidays, being frustrated by new family members, and facing the challenge of code-switching between homes.
Booked by Kwame Alexander
This book is written in verse and tells the story of Nick, a teenage soccer player, who shows readers how someone may experience divorce while also dealing with having a crush, disappointments as an athlete, and challenges at school. His relationship with his father is strained, and once his parents separate and his mom moves away, Nick finds it even more difficult to navigate his place within his family. When his parents come together to support him, he thinks they are going to stay together and then has to face the realization that his family will never be the same.
Blended by Sharon Draper
This book tells the story of Isabella, an 11-year old bi-racial girl who is consistently code-switching between living with her mom who is White and her dad who is Black. By organizing the book by weeks with her mother and weeks with her dad, the author demonstrates the impact of Isabella’s life being split between two different families that both love and support her. Like most middle school students, Isabella is dealing with more than just one issue in her life; she is navigating her own racial identity, racism, police aggression, gun violence, and the impacts of her socioeconomic status.
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
This book is a mix of prose and graphic novel. It tells the story of a ten-year-old girl, Flora, who is cynical, has a passion for words, and has a squirrel, Ulysses, that has superpowers which include writing poetry. The backdrop of the book is funny and quirky and allows the reader to laugh while considering the powerful emotions of a young girl who is dealing with a complex relationship with her divorced parents.
These two books tell the story of how two girls named Naomi, one White and one Black, deal with their parents’ dating, in the first book, and becoming step-sisters, in the second book. The books alternate between both girls’ perspectives and illustrate for the reader two unique ways that a child may deal with this type of family transition, as well how race impacts their lives. The author uses key moments to show the reader honest and raw feelings about divorce, remarriage, racism, and racial identity.
A Galaxy of Sea Stars by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo
This book address a lot of complex situations in an honest way that is perfect for older elementary or younger middle grade students. The author uses flashbacks throughout the book to show the reader how families and friendships change over time. Throughout the book the reader sees how someone might navigate changing family dynamics due to parental separation and having to confront a variety of unknowns about the future. This separation impacts interactions with friends, parents, and the character approaches the world around her. The book also addresses complex emotions involved when ones parent comes back from serving overseas in the armed forces, the beauty and strength of the Muslim faith, the impact of Islamophobia, and ultimately the value of using one’s voice to speak up for oneself and others, even when it means getting out of one’s comfort zone.
Kasey Short attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a BA in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a Master’s of Education in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University. She is currently an 8th-grade English teacher and English department chair at Charlotte Country Day School, North Carolina. Twitter: @Shortisweet3.
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