Books for Early Readers

The 12th Candle - Kim Tomsic

“Sage Sassafras’s life is cursed! No, really. Since birth, Sage has been plagued by the Contrarium Curse that’s set her at odds with classmate Priscilla Petty.

Every time something goes right for Priscilla, it goes terribly, horribly wrong for Sage. And things always go well for Priscilla.

Sage blames the curse for all her middle school misery—from losing a friend to failing gym to gaining a reputation as the girl whose daddy’s in trouble. So when Sage is given a magical candle on her twelfth birthday, she seizes the chance to turn her luck around—with a wish to reverse the curse.

But when the consequences of her wish take a terrible turn, Sage has to team up with her worst enemy—before she’s doomed to a life of opposites forever.”

All Kinds of Families - Norma Simon

“Explores in words and pictures what a family is and how families vary in makeup and styles.”

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook - Leslie Connor

“Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth—and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home. When Perry moves to the “outside” world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?”

Almost Like Visiting - Shannon Ellie

“Almost Like Visiting aims to provide feelings and emotions children with an incarcerated parent may experience before, during, and after visiting their parent in prison. The book primarily focuses on one way of visiting called video visiting. This book is a great resource for the population experiencing an incarcerated loved one and also serves to provide valuable information to their peers.”

Almost Paradise - Corabel Shofner

“Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life changes the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly jailed for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is an ornery nun who lives in the midst of a peach orchard on Paradise Ranch. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along, but Eleanor has secrets of her own―secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

It’s not going to be easy for Ruby Clyde and Eleanor to heal old wounds, face the past, and learn to trust each other. But with enough little pieces of love, they might be able to bring their family together again, and learn that paradise isn’t a place―it’s the feeling of being home. Corabel Shofner’s ALMOST PARADISE is a funny and heartfelt story of determination, belonging, and the joys of loving one another.”

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart - Vera B. Williams

“Williams’ heartwarming story takes readers on the emotional roller-coaster ride that is Amber and Essie’s life. Times are hard for their family-their mother works long hours, leaving them with sitters or cousins or often on their own. Worse yet, their father is in jail. While the girls share their heartache, they also share their special talents-Essie teaches Amber to write her name in script, and Amber convinces the grocer to trust them for milk until payday. The good times are good, but the bad times are really bad. The shadow of their father’s mistake is always there. Williams’ spare and touching verses capture every detail with clarity, humor, and heart. While the text is accessible to children just venturing beyond easy-readers, the story has a great deal of substance for older readers as well. Black-pencil sketches are full of action and as lively as Williams’s poems, and fully capture the joys and sorrows of the girls’ life. Finally, when the story has ended (or perhaps just begun), readers are treated to a full-color album of most of the high points and some of the low points the youngsters experience.”

Anna’s Test - Whitney Quinn Hollins PhD

“Anna is an awesome student who looks forward to her spelling test each week so she can show her parents. Her dad is especially proud of her. When she goes to visit her dad in prison, Anna can’t wait to share the good news with him! Written and illustrated by directly impacted individuals, Anna’s Test is a book that fosters conversation and allows children with incarcerated parents to see themselves represented in literature. While Anna’s story is not the story of every child with an incarcerated parent, it can serve to facilitate a much needed conversation about parental incarceration. Aiming to decrease the secrecy and stigma that is attached to parental incarceration and highlight the goodness of these families, Anna’s Test focuses on positive family dynamics despite obstacles.”

Born Behind Bars - Padma Venkatraman

“Kabir has been in jail since the day he was born, because his mom is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. He’s never met his dad, so the only family he’s got are their cellmates, and the only place he feels the least bit free is in the classroom, where his kind teacher regales him with stories of the wonders of the outside world. Then one day a new warden arrives and announces Kabir is too old to stay. He gets handed over to a long-lost “uncle” who unfortunately turns out to be a fraud, and intends to sell Kabir. So Kabir does the only thing he can—run away as fast as his legs will take him. How does a boy with nowhere to go and no connections make his way? Fortunately, he befriends Rani, another street kid, and she takes him under her wing. But plotting their next move is hard—and fraught with danger—in a world that cares little for homeless, low caste children. This is not the world Kabir dreamed of—but he’s discovered he’s not the type to give up. Kabir is ready to show the world that he—and his mother—deserve a place in it.”

Breaking Out; Five-Finger Discount; Monkey See Monkey Do - Barthe DeClements

“A three-book series about Jerry Johnson whose father is in prison, a fact Jerry desperately wishes to keep a secret.” Note: Monkey See, Monkey Do can be difficult to locate. You might want to consider asking your local library about interlibrary loans.” 

But Why is Daddy In Prison and But Why is Mommy in Jail – Erika Ruiz

“Erika Ruiz’ books will encourage children to be happy, as they should be. Erika Ruiz write books to help All Families learn better ways of helping their children cope with the challenges that come from having a parent incarcerated. These books will help children and parents understand one another and strengthen family relationships.”

A Card For My Father - Samantha Thornhill

“The first title in a trilogy of picture books exploring the lasting effects, big and small, of a father’s incarceration on his first-grade daughter, Flora. When Flora’s class has to make Father’s Day cards, she bonds with a classmate who also doesn’t have a father and instead makes a card for President Obama. Desperate to know her father but afraid to ask her mother about him, Flora asks strangers and imagines myriad dads, but it’s not until she asks her mother if she can send her father a card that Flora begins to understand, even if she doesn’t quite know it yet.”

Clarissa’s Disappointment: And Resources for Families, Teachers and Counselors of Children of Incarcerated Parents - Megan Sullivan

“Clarissa Pettaway has waited five years for her father to come home from prison. When the day finally arrives, her mother makes a special dinner, and her father calls her his favorite names: Oh, Clarissa, Sissy, Sassafrass Girl, I’m never gonna leave you again. Soon, however, Clarissa discovers it isn’t all that easy for people who have been incarcerated to rejoin their families and reenter society. Clarissa has to learn to cope with the reality of her father being out of prison, and all of the confusing, conflicting emotions it creates in her. Two books in one, Clarissa’s Disappointment combines a moving children’s story with resources to assist the families, teachers and counselors of children of incarcerated parents.”

The Convicts - Iain Lawrence

“After seeing his father hauled off to debtor’s prison, Tom Tin sets out to take revenge on Mr. Goodfellow, the man responsible for his family’s misfortunes. But the fog-filled London streets are teeming with sinister characters. Tom encounters a blind man who scavenges the riverbed for treasure—and wants what Tom digs up; Worms, a body snatcher who reveals a shocking surprise; and a nasty gang of young pickpockets who mistake Tom for someone ominously known as the Smasher. And ultimately, Tom comes up against the cruel hand of the law. Accused of murder, Tom is given a seven-year sentence. He is to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land with other juvenile convicts. But Tom can’t abide life on the Hulk, the old ship where the boys are temporarily held. He decides to escape. But if he’s to succeed, his luck needs to turn. . . .”

Daddy’s Time Out; Mama’s Time Out; Peanut’s Time Out – Rachel Nee Hall

The Time Out book series is geared to young children to help them understand their world when a parent, sibling, or other loved one is incarcerated. In a relatable and age-appropriate way, the animals in each story share their struggles and revelations as they maneuver a difficult situation. Through the eyes of Junebug, Nibblit, and Butters, children see that they are not alone.”

A Day I’ll Never Forget - Dana L. Cunningham, Ph.D

“Javon’s world is turned upside down when his father suddenly goes to jail. He is devastated and has no idea what he will do without his father. However, Javon eventually discovers that although he is separated from his father, he can maintain his relationship with him. This is a touching story that would benefit children, counselors, teachers, family members, and any adult who works with children who have been affected by the incarceration of a loved one. The narrative and accompanying discussion questions provide an opportunity for adults to help children process their feelings about incarceration. The story is ideal for children ages 10 and younger.”

The Day We Visit Daddy in Prison – Cindy Similien

“From award-winning children’s book author and community advocate Cindy Similien is a heartwarming picture book that tells the story of a young girl and her family who visit her father in prison for the first time. This book was written to address the experiences faced by 2.7 million children in the USA who have at least one incarcerated parent. It can be used as an educational tool to foster honest conversations with children and help prepare them for visiting a parent in prison.” 

Dear Hank Williams - Kimberly Willis Holt

“It’s 1948 in Rippling Creek, Louisiana, and Tate P. Ellerbee’s new teacher has just given her class an assignment—learning the art of letter-writing. Luckily, Tate has the perfect pen pal in mind: Hank Williams, a country music singer whose star has just begun to rise. Tate and her great-aunt and -uncle listen to him on the radio every Saturday night, and Tate just knows that she and Hank are kindred spirits.

Told entirely through Tate’s hopeful letters, Dear Hank Williams is a beautifully drawn novel from National Book Award–winning author Kimberly Willis Holt that gradually unfolds a story of family love, overcoming tragedy, and an insightful girl learning to find her voice. This title has Common Core connections.”

Deena Misses Her Mom - Jonae Haynesworth

“Lately, Deena has been getting angry. A lot. She acts out in school and keeps getting in trouble. Everyone is surprised because she used to be very calm, but that was before her mother went to jail. Her dad, her grandma, and her best friend Josey all do their best to help her out, but Deena doesn’t want to talk about it. Will a day at the carnival with her Dad help her open up?”

Demetri Makes a Memory Quilt - Renee Menart

“Demetri is searching for special memories! As his birthday approaches, Demetri feels excited to celebrate with his grandma, Tía Alanna, and cousin Adla. However, he misses his mom and wishes she was there with him. Luckily, Grandma has an idea to bring them together using a needle and thread.

This book tells the story of a young boy whose mom is in prison. With the help of his family, he embarks on a creative healing process and explores ways to connect with his mom.”

Do Not Pass Go - Kirkpatrick Hill

“Deet’s world turns upside down when his father is arrested for drug use. It doesn’t seem possible that kind, caring Dad could be a criminal! After all, he only took the pills to stay awake so he could work two jobs. Now what will happen? How will Deet be able to face his classmates? Where will they get money? And most importantly, will Dad be okay in prison?

Hurt, angry, and ashamed, Deet doesn’t want to visit his father in jail. But when Mom goes back to work, Deet starts visiting Dad after school. It’s frightening at first, but as he adjusts to the routine, Deet begins to see the prisoners as people with stories of their own, just like his dad. Deet soon realizes that prison isn’t the terrifying place of movies and nightmares. In fact, Dad’s imprisonment leads Deet to make a few surprising discoveries — about his father, his friends, and himself. With moving realism, Kirkpatrick Hill brings to light the tumultuous experience of having a parent in jail in this honest and stirring story of a young man forced to grow up quickly.”

Does He Still Love Me?  Book for Children Whose Parents are in Prison - Rebecca Smith

“A children’s book sparked by a visit to a maximum-security prison, Rebecca Smith wrote and illustrated a book for young minds whose parents are facing time in prison. ‘Does He Still Love Me?’ detailed the fictional story of a boy named Thomas, whose father goes to prison as he grows up. The goal of this book is to be used as a resource for children with relatives in prison to help understand the legal system, the adjustment of a parent leaving the home, and the readjustment to the parent returning to the home after their sentence.”

Doogie’s Dad - Richard Dyches

“This story is about Doogie, a young boy, and his sister whose father is sent to prison. It explores their feelings of loss, fear and frustration at not being told what’s going on until their mother finally takes them to visit their dad in prison.” 

Everyone Makes Mistakes: Living With My Daddy In Jail - Madison Strempek

“Take a heartwarming journey with 10-year-old author, Madison Strempek, as she candidly depicts her life experience of living with her father in jail. Through her eyes, you will live the heartbreak of her life changing news, discover how she survives with her embarrassing secret, and ultimately finds resolution and strength in understanding everyone makes mistakes. It’s truly a story of perseverance, forgiveness, and love. She skillfully helps the reader maneuver through difficult times by providing opportunities to reflect with blank pages of doodle space, letter writing ideas, and helping the readers find their inner champion. Madison’s personal story is not only valuable for kids living with a parent in jail, but also brings great insight to parents, doctors, social workers, psychologists, judges, lawyers, inmates, law enforcement, friends, and family that support children with incarcerated parents.”

Families Change: A Book for Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights - Julie Nelson

“All families change over time. Sometimes a baby is born, or a grown-up gets married. And sometimes a child gets a new foster parent or a new adopted mom or dad. Children need to know that when this happens, it’s not their fault. They need to understand that they can remember and value their birth family and love their new family, too. Straightforward words and full-color illustrations offer hope and support for children facing or experiencing change. Includes resources and information for birth parents, foster parents, social workers, counselors, and teachers.”

Far Apart, Close in Heart - Becky Birtha

“Children can experience many emotions when a parent is in jail or prison. They may be angry, sad, lonely, or scared. Sometimes friends act differently toward them. Sometimes the children begin acting differently too. In this important book, young readers will learn that even when it feels like nothing can get better again, there are ways they can improve their circumstances. Sending letters, talking to a trusted grown-up about their feelings, and even visiting a parent in jail or prison can help keep a parent close in their hearts. Use this title as a helpful tool to start a conversation with any child in this situation and to remind them they are not alone.” 

Fighting Words - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

“Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf—her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.

In this powerful novel that explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.”

Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can’t Live With Their Parents – Janice Levy

“A young girl living with her foster parent describes the emotional ups and downs of being separated from her mother and living in unfamiliar surroundings. Note: Not specifically about children with incarcerated parents.”

From the Desk of Zoe Washington - Janae Marks

“Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.”

Glennis, Before and After - Patricia Calvert

“Glennis just wants things to be the way they were. This means that Dad would be proven innocent and be out of prison; Mom would recover from her nervous breakdown. And the whole family -- Vinnie, Louise, Allie and Missy, and Glennis -- would be together again, living in a big house with a huge backyard and having family picnics complete with badminton nets and hoops for croquet. As the family has dissolved, Glennis has chosen to live with eccentric Aunt Wanda, who cooks only meals that come out of boxes, and wears rhinestone shirts and cowboy boots. When Wanda is at work, Glennis has no one but Skipper, Aunt Wanda’s only son, to keep her company. But living with both of them has allowed Glennis to visit Dad every weekend at the correctional facility, where she is sure he’ll ask her to help prove his innocence. Quite the opposite happens and Glennis is left wondering: If her life before is gone forever, then where does she stand now? Patricia Calvert writes with power and grace in a novel that probes the intricacies of family relationships and the many prisons that we construct for ourselves.”

Graham Cracker Plot - Shelley Tougas

“Meet Daisy Bauer and her sometimes best friend, Graham, who are determined to break Daisy’s dad out of prison in this hilarious middle-grade debut. No one believes her, but Daisy Bauer knows her dad has been wrongfully imprisoned and that it’s up to her to break him out of jail (aka Club Fed). She has a plan that she’s calling the Graham Cracker Plot because it was all Graham’s idea. She just needs a miniature horse, a getaway truck, and a penny from 1919—the idea coin. This funny, nail-biter of a novel is about friendship and admitting you’re wrong. Debut novelist Shelley Tougas balances humor and warmth against themes of family, broken trust, and unconditional love against all odds.”

Harbor Me - Jacqueline Woodson

“Six kids with very different life experiences narrate Harbor Me, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson’s powerful and timely novel. Through Woodson’s characters, young readers will identify with the importance of sharing our stories and helping one another through times of prejudice and fear. Uplifting and hopeful, readers in fourth and fifth grade in particular will appreciate this magnificent novel.”

Harry Sue - Sue Stauffacher

“Harry Sue Clotkin is tough. Her mom’s in the slammer and she wants to get there too, as fast as possible, so they can be together. But it’s not so easy to become a juvenile delinquent when you’ve got a tender heart. Harry Sue’s got her hands full caring for the crumb-snatchers who take up her afternoons at the day care center, and spending time with her best friend Homer, a quadriplegic who sees life from a skylight in the roof of his tree house. When Harry Sue finds an unlikely confidante in her new art teacher, her ambitions toward a life of crime are sidelined as she comes to a deeper understanding about her past--and future. Sue Stauffacher has once again crafted a fast-paced middle-grade novel filled with quirky but lovable characters, a narrator impossible to ignore, a completely original plot, and a whole lot of redemption.”

Hooray! Hooray! Dad’s On His Way - LaShelle White-Corley

“This is a children’s book for children ages five and older who have or had experienced separation from their parent(s) or guardian(s) due to incarceration. The book provides these children with an opportunity to verbalize and be transparent about the separation. It will empower children and their families with the knowledge and resources they need to strengthen their family infrastructure and break the cycle of incarceration.

The book is beneficial in the following ways:

1) Provides a child-centered focus and perspective.

2) Promotes constructive dialog and insight between the child and the adult.

3) Strengthens the family unit by connecting them to community resources.”

How Mommy Found Her Way Home – Annette Dominguez and Candace Paulucci

“This is the story of a little girl named Lily whose mother must leave her to serve a prison sentence. Lily is left to deal with the confusion, guilt, and fear that so many children experience due to the increasing rate of incarceration among women. Our book is a tribute to the commitment those mother’s make and to every child we have witnessed laughing and playing in the visiting hall and then sobbing and confused as they leave the institution without mom. Lily reminds us that children are resilient, patient, and love unconditionally.”

I Didn’t Leave Because of You –  Tyechia White

“As a single parent, it can be hard to answer the simple question, where is daddy or where is mommy. This book will help you get beyond the usual answer that the absent parent is just a deadbeat and really spark a conversation to help the motherless or fatherless child heal. Whether you are a single mom, single dad, adoptive parent, or foster parent seeking to help a child heal from abandonment because of an absent mother or absent father then this book is for you. Note: not specifically about parental incarceration.”

If You Listen - Charlotte Zolotow

“This loving tale about loss from two-time Caldecott Honor winner Charlotte Zolotow is a gentle, reassuring approach to a subject that’s always challenging for parents to discuss with children. In it, a mother comforts her daughter about the absence of the child’s father by explaining that if she listens hard, she’ll feel him far away sending love to her.” Note: not specifically about parental incarceration.

An Inmate’s Daughter - Jan Walker

“Jenna’s mother forbids her to tell her friends that her dad is in prison. Prison reflects on wives and children. Keeping the fact of prison secret becomes more difficult when the newspaper runs a story about Jenna’s “Good Samaritan” rescue at the McNeil Island Corrections Center. She just wants to fit in. As Jenna writes in her journal, children of prisoners are doing time too.”

Jailbird Kid - Shirlee Smith Matheson

“Angela Wroboski has recently moved with her mother from their small hometown into the city to rid them of a dark past. Now, Angela must deal with the fact that her home will be anything but “normal.” Her dad, the infamous Nick “The Weasel” Wroboski, has served three jail terms for various crimes, including robbery, during her lifetime, and on June 5, Angela’s fifteenth birthday, he’s released from a two-year sentence in Fort Gavin Prison. Arriving home with an attitude and attire that’s sure to mess up her friendships and future, The Weasel tries in his own way to prove that this time he’s going straight. But the influence of the old gang, led by notorious Uncle Al who’s now operating an enigmatic “business” that’s more than a little shady, remains a constant threat to Nick’s future as a family man. When Angela learns that a crime is being planned that could blow apart her family, she must quickly decide how to intervene without breaking her father’s code to ‘never discuss family business outside the home.’”

Jakeman - Deborah Ellis

“Jake and his sister Shoshona have been under foster care since their single mother was arrested for possession and trafficking three years before. Both have found their own ways to cope: Shoshona has become a bossy mother figure; Jake, who is a budding comic book artist, has created an alter ego named Jakeman. And unbeknownst to his sister, Jake continues his one-man letter-writing campaign to the Governor, pleading for clemency for their mom. Along with an assortment of nervous, angry, and damaged kids, Jake and Shoshona take a community-provided school bus four times a year on the long overnight journey through New York State to visit their mother in jail. This time will be like no other trip they’ve ever taken. Their adult chaperones contract food poisoning on the way back and must be dropped off at a hospital. And their driver, refusing to wait for another adult to replace their chaperones, sets off again with only the kids and a hidden bottle of booze in tow. In no time they are off the main highway and lost. And their driver, now staggering drunk, abandons the kids and walks off, leaving them in the middle of nowhere. Angry and sick to death of a system that has deserted them at every turn, Shoshana takes the wheel. And through a series of crazy side trips, Jake and the others hatch a plan to visit the Governor’s mother. And when the old lady sees that her son has dismissed Jake’s appeals and refused to even reply, she helps them face off with the Governor himself. Jake and the others find themselves at a photo opportunity that ends in tragedy even as it gives the long-abandoned kids a forum to be heard at long last.”

Kennedy’s Big Visit - Daphne Brooks

“Little Kennedy is so excited to visit her father again. After she tries on her princess dress and a tutu, Kennedy’s mother finds something pretty for her to wear. Finally, they are ready to take the long car ride to visit her daddy! When Kennedy arrives at the big building, she knows she cannot run around or talk loudly. When she sees her father, she is happy and sad all at once. Happy because she loves her daddy, but sad because she knows her visit will come to an end soon and she will have to say goodbye. Even though she knows her father must be punished for his bad choices, Kennedy hopes that one day, God will answer her prayers and bring him home to her again. Kennedy’s Big Visit is the poignant children’s story about a father and daughter bond that is unbreakable, despite their unique challenges.”

A Kind of Thief - Vivien Alcock

“A convincing story of a girl who’s forced to reevaluate her world and those around her. Elinor, 13, is stunned when the police come one morning to arrest her father for embezzlement. While the officers are distracted, her father slips her a luggage claim receipt. Later, when her stepmother asks about it, Elinor tells her she’s destroyed it and secretly retrieves the case herself. She is uneasy over having the overnight bag but refuses to let her younger brother force it open; when they are parcelled out among relatives they barely know, Elinor takes it with her. She learns that her father has not only stolen from strangers but also from the very aunt and cousins who have reluctantly taken her in. Questions of whether she should open the case, to whom the money rightly belongs, and how she can best care for herself and her siblings are deftly handled by this master storyteller. Realistic characters, careful plotting, and the right amount of suspense combine to make A Kind of Thief a real page-turner.” 

The Kissing Hand - Audrey Penn

“School is starting in the forest, but Chester Raccoon does not want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the Kissing Hand to give him the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. Since its first publication in 1993, this heartwarming book has become a children’s classic that has touched the lives of millions of children and their parents, especially at times of separation, whether starting school, entering daycare, or going to camp. It is widely used by kindergarten teachers on the first day of school.” Note: not specifically about parental incarceration. 

Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me – Daniel Beatty

“This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind, and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams.”

Kofi’s Mom - Richard Dyches

“Kofi’s Mom is a story about Kofi whose mother is sent to prison. It explores his feelings of loss and confusion. Through friends at school, Kofi begins to talk about his mom and to look forward to her return.”

Let’s Talk About When Your Parent Is In Jail - Maureen Wittbold

“More people are in prison today than at any other time in U.S. history. Many prisoners have children. The impact of this situation on kids can be traumatic. This book takes kids through the stages of a parent’s incarceration to help them understand and deal with their thoughts, fears, and other feelings.>

Lizzie Flying Solo - Nanci Turner Steveson

“Lizzie St. Claire wants to be invisible. Forced to move out of her home, she and her mom now live in a transitional housing shelter, Good Hope, until they can get back on their feet.

Lizzie just wants to keep her head down at Good Hope and her new school, so she doesn’t have to admit the real reason she and her mom lost everything.

But when Lizzie finds herself at the nearby Birchwood Stables, some new friends—along with the arrival of a frightened pony named Fire—help Lizzie to open up and accept help from those around her, even if it means she’ll have more to lose if things change again.”

“A young girl living with her foster parent describes the emotional ups and downs of being separated from her mother and living in unfamiliar surroundings. Note: Not specifically about children with incarcerated parents.”

Locked Out: A book for Children with a Loved One in Prison

“Locked Out is a book developed by Pact to support children to cope with the imprisonment of a loved one. The book contains useful guidance for parents/caregivers and professionals working with children and includes a variety of fun and informative activities for children.”

Mama Loves Me From Far Away - Pat Brisson and Laura Caple

“Separated by a prison sentence, a child and her mother find ways to stay connected in this affecting story. Sugar and Mama are extremely close. They share the same birthday and love to spend time together telling stories. But life takes an unexpected turn when Mama is incarcerated-Brisson doesn’t give details, but all readers need to know is revealed in Sugar’s eyes. Caple’s realistic watercolors focus on the child’s face, portraying a sense of deep sadness, confusion, and loss. What emerges is a story of triumph over adversity, a non-judgmental look at life rocked by unfortunate events and how people cope under difficult circumstances. Young readers will empathize with Sugar; those in the same situation will no doubt be comforted.”

Marinka, Katinka, and Me (Susie) - Winifred Madison

“Three fourth-grade girls enjoy their special friendship until two of them stop speaking to each other.”

Milo Imagines the World - Matt de la Peña

“Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo—walking the same path, going to the exact same place—Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them.”

Missing Daddy - Mariam Kaba

“A little girl who misses her father because he’s away in prison shares how his absence affects different parts of her life. Her greatest excitement is the days when she gets to visit her beloved father. With gorgeous illustrations throughout, this book illuminates the heartaches of dealing with missing a parent.”

My Dad Is In Jail – Amber Ryan

“This children’s book sets out to normalize the feelings accompanied by the absence of a parent while either in prison or jail. Many children feel responsible for the separation and think they are all alone in their internal struggle for understanding. My Dad Is In Jail describes the good times and the bad times families face during this transition in their lives.” 

My Daddy’s In Jail - Anthony Curcio

“There are nearly three million adults in the U.S. alone that are in prison or jail. Many of these being parents that leave behind unanswered questions with their children:
What is jail? Why did this happen? Is it my fault? Is my daddy (or mommy) bad? Do they love me? This is a story of two bears who have a father in prison. The book is narrated by a very odd cockroach.”

My Daddy Is In Jail - Janet Bender

“My Daddy is in Jail is a long overdue resource for helping children cope with the incarceration of a loved one. It includes a read-aloud story, discussion guide, caregiver suggestions and optional small group counseling activities. With this book, helping professionals, and other caring adults, will find themselves better equipped to provide information and support to these vulnerable children and their families.”

The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail - Melissa Higgins

“The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail’ follows a young rabbit as his father is arrested at their house in front of the neighbors and sentenced to six years in prison. It offers tips for dealing with the hardship of losing a parent for many years and an explanation of what to expect as a mother or father going through the legal process.”

Nine Candles - Maria Testa

“The reality of a prison sentence is brought down to a child’s perspective in this unusual birthday story. Seven-year-old Raymond makes his weekly visit to this mother, who is in a correctional facility for stealing money from the restaurant where she used to work. “Mama says...she’s never been so sorry for anything in her whole life. I don’t like what she did, but I believe her.” The boy is afraid that she has forgotten about his birthday, but when he arrives, she surprises him with a cake. Details of prison life, such as the fences, uniformed people with guns or dogs, and the experience of walking through a metal detector all add to this sensitive story. The colorful, cheerful paintings of this loving family are done in strong, bold strokes. The author notes that one and a half million children in the United States have a parent in prison. A thought-provoking picture book that shows the cost and consequences of crime.”

Nowhere Girl - A.J. Paquette

“Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she’s ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she’s always dreamed of. Weaving intricate elements of traditional Thailand into a modern-day fairy tale unique unto itself, Nowhere Girl is a beautifully rendered story of courage, resilience, and finding the one place where you truly belong.”

Oh No! When A Parent Goes Away - Dakota King-White

“Duane is a seven-year-old boy who recently found out his dad went to jail and will not be coming home soon. Throughout the book, Duane goes through different emotions about his dad being gone and often says, “Oh no! What am I going to do?” His mother decides to take him to see a counselor who teaches him to use coping strategies. The book explores healthy ways to cope with a child losing a parent due to incarceration.”

One for the Murphys - Lynda Mullaly Hunt

“Be careful who you get close to - you never know how long they’ll be around. That seems to be the new mantra for Carley Connors. Placed in foster care after a domestic abuse incident, the 12-year-old goes to live with the Murphys in Connecticut—in a picture-perfect home complete with three active boys and two caring, attentive foster parents. But while the scenario might seem ideal, the Murphys aren’t anything like what Carley is used to. Their happy suburban existence is a far cry from her life with her single mother in Las Vegas. And Carley just doesn’t seem to fit in - nor, at first, does she want to. Bright, perceptive Carley remains guarded, both at school and at home—trying to fly under the radar to avoid too much scrutiny or criticism. But the warmth of foster mother Julie Murphy chips away at that wall, and by the time her stint in foster care is over, Carley is torn. Her future with her biological mother isn’t exactly clear, but meeting the Murphys has given Carley a better sense of who she is and what a caring family is all about, no matter where she finds it. In One for the Murphys, Lynda Mullaly Hunt convincingly portrays the personality of a questioning tween as she interacts with those around her. This is a life-affirming middle grade novel—perfect for those struggling with similar issues of fitting in or standing out.”

Our Gracie Aunt - Jacqueline Woodson

“Johnson and his sister, Beebee, seem to be all alone in the world. Their mama has gone away many times before, but something tells them that this time she won’t be coming back. Then a social worker comes and takes them to meet their Aunt Gracie. Beebee barely remembers her, and Mama never even told Johnson about her. They wonder where she’s been all this time—and why she would want to take care of them. Warily, though, the children begin to trust Aunt Gracie. And in the process, they come to a better understanding of what it means to be a family.” 

Our Moms (Living with Incarcerated Parents) - Q. Futrell

“Meet Michael, Paul, Jennifer and Anne! All children are different in many ways, but all have one thing in common, their moms are in prison. Parental incarceration affects children in many ways. This book will serve as a conversation starter for such a sensitive issue that impacts nearly 3 million children in the US.”

Poppy’s Angel – Rachel Billington

“Poppy’s dad is still in prison. Her mum has rushed back to Poland to look after her seriously ill mother, and Poppy is sent to stay with her friend Jude. But Poppy feels stifled. At times like this she needs Angel, the joker among her friends - dodgy, wild, can’t read or write much, yet bursting with energy and one of life’s natural wits. But Angel, like Poppy, feels a bit orphaned, and has joined a gang. At half-term Poppy goes to stay with her friend Will in the country, and they write their second children’s book. Poppy comes back to discover a note from Angel: At yor place. Need help. She finds him lying under the kitchen table, bleeding from an arm wound. Has he been stabbed? Why hasn’t he rung 999? Who else is involved? And will her dad, now in an open prison, find out about her oddball friend? Rachel Billington’s dramatic follow-up to Poppy’s Hero features two opposing kinds of London kids, with Poppy straddling the gulf between them as she and her friends are drawn into a strange, unimaginable world.”

Poppy’s Hero - Rachel Billington

“When Poppy discovers that her father Frank is in prison, she is angry and bewildered. Seeing her wonderful, heroic father in a London prison looking pale, subdued and in prison clothes, she suddenly has a brilliant idea: to free her father. She and her friend Will invent all kinds of escape ideas for him - until she hears that he has been removed to a prison far away on an island, with five years to serve. But when the prison decides to stage a musical using professionals and prisoners, Frank is picked for the lead role. It is then that the questions begin...

The story of a feisty girl, and how she deals with the pain of her dad’s downfall, has much to say about the harsh realities faced by the unlucky children of prisoners.”

The Prison Alphabet: An Educational Coloring Book for Children of Incarcerated Parents - Dr. Bahiyyan Muhammad and Muntaquim Muhammad

“When a parent is incarcerated it can be very difficult to explain that to a child. This unique coloring book was created to serve as a conversation starter between adults who plan to talk about parental incarceration with affected children. The Prison Alphabet allows each letter of the alphabet to serve as a topic of discussion. By using the letters of the alphabet, this book is a child-friendly approach to helping young children begin to understand what is going on behind bars with their parent or family member. The motivation for this coloring book emerged from Dr. Bahiyyah M. Muhammad’s recognition that children with parents in prison have many questions about what prison life is like. During her extensive interviews with children of the incarcerated, children voiced their curiosity and concern about the daily lives of their loved ones. Specially developed books such as The Prison Alphabet can empower children to gain a better understanding of the experience of their loved ones behind bars, show children with parents in prison that they are not alone, and provide resources for caretakers to use to create opportunities to openly discuss the child’s feelings and help them cope with their parents’ absence. The Prison Alphabet is divided into two sections: The first section is a coloring book and uses the letters of the alphabet, from A thru Z, to explain in a child-friendly manner what life is like inside a prison using terms associated with incarceration. The second section of the book contains a discussion guide to help caretakers and counselors explain parental incarceration to a young child by providing sample responses to children’s commonly asked questions about life inside prison. The Prison Alphabet contains illustrations depicting ethnically diverse characters and can therefore be used by any race or gender. Furthermore, it provides opportunities to discuss maternal, paternal and/or familial incarceration.”

Resilient Mr. Ball - Charlotte Apricot

“A fun and adorable story about resiliency, that I wrote for my son when I was in prison. It’s all about the bounce back! Resilient Mr. Ball is a story about bouncing back. When I created him, I was an inmate at the Women’s Adult Correctional Institution in Rhode Island. Even though I was in a very low and dark place, separated from my son, holding on to the notion of bouncing back helped me endure through adversity. Now that my son, Dasan, and I are reunited, we want to bring this book to other children who are affected by the prison system. We survived - so can you! Although I wrote this book for my son, the message is universal to people of all ages. We all get knocked down, but it’s all about the bounce back.” (from the author) 

Rocky’s Road: A Coloring Book for Children of Incarcerated Parents – Janice Beal (formerly A Boy Named Rocky – Janice Beal and Vanessa Gilmore)

“This coloring book can be used in educational, therapeutic, and family settings to explore loss and help maintain family cohesiveness during parent-child separation. Furthermore, it helps create treatment plans for the minor child.”

Ruby in the Sky - Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

“In Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo’s heartfelt middle-grade debut about family, friendship, and finding your own identity, Ruby Moon Hayes learns there’s more to a person’s story than what other people tell.

Twelve-year-old Ruby Moon Hayes does not want her new classmates to ask about her father. She does not want them to know her mother has been arrested. And she definitely does not want to make any friends. Ruby just wants to stay as silent and invisible as a new moon in the frozen sky. She and her mother won’t be staying long in Vermont anyway, and then things can go back to the way they were before everything went wrong.

But keeping to herself isn’t easy when Ahmad Saleem, a Syrian refugee, decides he’s her new best friend. Or when she meets “the Bird Lady,” a recluse named Abigail who lives in a ramshackle shed near Ruby’s house. Before long Ahmad and Abigail have become Ruby’s friends—and she realizes there is more to their stories than everyone knows.

As ugly rumors begin to swirl around the people Ruby loves, she must make a choice: break her silence, or risk losing everything that’s come to mean so much to her. Ruby in the Sky is a story of the walls we hide behind, and the magic that can happen when we’re brave enough to break free.”

Ruby on the Outside - Nora Raleigh Baskin

“Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked—from the author of The Summer Before Boys. Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes is about to start middle school, and only her aunt knows her deepest, darkest, secret: her mother is in prison. Then Margalit Tipps moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two immediately hit it off. Ruby thinks she’s found her first true-blue friend—but can she tell Margalit the truth about her mom? Maybe not. Because it turns out that Margalit’s family history seems closely connected to the very event that put her mother in prison, and if Ruby comes clean, she could lose everything she cares about most.”

The Same Stuff as Stars - Katherine Paterson

“Angel Morgan Needs Help. Her daddy is in jail, and her mother has abandoned Angel and her little brother, Bernie, at their great-grandmother’s crumbling Vermont farmhouse. Grandma, aged and poor, spends most of her time wrapped in a blanket by the wood stove and can’t care for the children. That’s left up to Angel, even though she is not yet twelve. In this dreary world of canned beans and peaches, of adult worries and loneliness, there is only one bright spot - a mysterious stranger who appears on clear nights and teaches Angel all about the stars and planets and constellations. Angel’s quest to carve out a new life for herself and Bernie makes for a powerful, moving story that could arise only from the keen sensitivity, penetrating sense of drama, and honed skill of master storyteller Katherine Paterson.”

Secret Saturdays - Torrey Maldonado

“Sean is Justin’s best friend - or at least Justin thought he was. But lately Sean has been acting differently. He’s been telling lies, getting into trouble at school, hanging out with a tougher crowd, even getting into fights. When Justin finally discovers that Sean’s been secretly going to visit his father in prison and is dealing with the shame of that, Justin wants to do something to help before his friend spirals further out of control. But will trying to save Sean jeopardize their friendship? Should Justin risk losing his best friend in order to save him?”

See You Soon –  Mariame Kaba

“Even though I’m away,

My love is always here to stay.

See you soon, Queenie.

Love, Mama

Queenie loves living with Mama and Grandma Louise. Together, they go to the grocery store, eat ice cream, and play games in the park. Mama braids Queenie’s hair and helps her with her homework. Sometimes, when Mama is sick, she has to go away. One day, Queenie and Grandma ride the bus with Mama to the county jail. Queenie is worried about what will happen when Mama goes to jail. She’s afraid to ask questions, and overcome with feelings of worry and sadness. Does Mama have a warm bed to sleep in? When will Queenie see her again? Soon after she and Grandma return home, Queenie opens a letter from Mama, and savors every word. She knows her Mama loves her, and looks forward to their upcoming visit.”

Sing, Sing, Midnight - Emily Gallagher

“Maya is one of the nearly two million American children with an incarcerated parent, and she has a question for her Daddy. ‘Who takes care of you?’ A simple question with an unexpected answer. Sing, Sing, Midnight! celebrates finding your voice, singing out loud, taking care of one another, and family.”

Someone I Know Lives in Prison - Rebecca Myers

“A young person visits an incarcerated family member and explains the many rules and procedures of a prison visit. Watercolor pictures accompany the text with images of visitors, inmates, and prison employees.”

Standing Against the Wind - Traci L. Jones

“Patrice Williams was happy living in Georgia with her grandmother, then her mother lured her to Chicago and ended up in jail. Living in the projects, Patrice is an easy target for everyone. Not only won’t she stand up for herself, she cares about her grades―unlike her classmates. But that draws the attention of Monty Freeman, another eighth grader who asks Patrice to tutor his little brother. When Monty becomes her guardian angel, Patrice begins to think something stronger than friendship might be growing between them. Still, nothing will stop her from applying for a scholarship at prestigious Dogwood Academy―except her mother.”

Stardust - Ivana Mlinac

“This book is designed for children of prisoners. Stardust explores the emotions that come with having a parent in prison and not being able to see them on a regular basis. While the girl and her mum cannot see each other, they find a unique way to feel connected through the sky and stars, which creates a sense of safety and love that allows the girl to focus on positive memories she has of her mum. This book aims to give children hope, and the self-belief that they can achieve their goals and dreams despite the challenges they face.”

Sunny Holiday - Coleen Murtagh Paratore

“Fourth-grader Sunny is dealing with a lot in her young life. Her father is in prison, her school is in danger of being shut down, and she is trying to come up with new holidays so that every month has a fun day. Difficult situations are handled gently, but realistically. Sunny knows that her daddy went to jail because he made a mistake trying to take a shortcut to success. Her mother, who works as a maid and is taking college courses one at a time, emphasizes that success only comes from hard work. The mayor visits Riverview Towers, an “ugly cement-gray building” where Sunny lives, and she decides to tell him about her idea for January’s holiday, Kid’s Day. When she gets her chance to speak, she finds herself telling him about all the things he needs to do for her and her neighbors, like fixing the community pool, finishing the park he started, and cleaning up the river. While Sunny’s life still isn’t perfect, the novel has a happy ending.”

The Swag is in the Socks – Kelly Baptist

“Xavier Moon is not one to steal the show. He’s perfectly content to play video games and sit at his bedroom window watching the neighborhood talk outside.

But for Xavier’s 12th birthday, he receives a pair of funky socks and a challenge from his great-uncle, Frankie Bell, saying it’s time to swag out and speak up. First on the list: get into the legendary Scepter League. Xavier’s grandfather, great-uncle, and father were all invited to join the elite boys’ after-school club that admits only the most suave and confident young men. Xavier has never had the courage to apply before, but his wild socks are getting him some big attention, so maybe it’s time to come out of the shadows and follow in his family’s footsteps. Or maybe Xavier will march down a new path altogether.”

A Terrible Thing Happened - Margaret Holmes

“After Sherman sees something terrible happen, he becomes anxious and then angry, but when a counselor helps him talk about these emotions he feels better.”

Tito the Bonecrusher - Melissa Thomson

“Oliver “Spaghetti-O” Jones’s dad is about to be jailed for a crime he didn’t commit, and Oliver believes the only way to save him is with the help of his favorite lucha-libre wrestler turned action star, Tito the Bonecrusher. Together with his best friend, Brianna (a.k.a. “Brain”), and their new ally Paul “Popcorn” Robards, Oliver devises a madcap plan to spring his dad from a Florida correctional facility. Heartwarming and hilarious, this book looks at what it takes to be a hero . . . and what happens when you realize that saving the day might not always be possible.”

To The Earth and Back – Lora Faris

“In this heartfelt, poignant story, an astronaut on a moon mission finds herself separated from her child-and she’s heartbroken, but determined-to find her way back home. Based on a series of interviews with incarcerated mothers, To the Earth and Back will build empathy, bolster social-emotional learning, and warm hearts with an empowering, reassuring story of unconditional love. A parent may be lightyears away, but her heart will always beam back the everlasting starlight of her love.”

Turn The Next Corner - Gudrun Alcock

“When his father is imprisoned, Richie and his mother must move to Chicago’s crowded near-north side. Here Richie makes friends with a disable African American boy whose toughness and perseverance help Richie deal with the new problems in his life.”

A Visit to the Big House - Oliver Butterworth

“When Willy, Rose, and their mother go to visit Daddy in prison, they are quite anxious. But once Daddy appears and they can talk and ask questions.”

Visiting Day - Jacqueline Woodson

“In this moving picture book from multi-award winning author Jacqueline Woodson, a young girl and her grandmother prepare for a very special day—the one day a month they get to visit the girl’s father in prison. “Only on visiting day is there chicken frying in the kitchen at 6 a.m., and Grandma in her Sunday dress, humming soft and low.” As the little girl and her grandmother get ready, her father, who adores her, is getting ready, too, and readers get to join the community of families who make the trip together, as well as the triumphant reunion between father and child, all told in Woodson’s trademark lyrical style, and beautifully illustrated by James Ransome.”

Waiting for Daddy - Jennie Lou Harriman and Kylie Ann Flye

“This is a story about a young girl, who wants more than anything to be with her father, but cannot because he is in prison. She discovers many ways to cope with her loss through creative expression, the natural world, and play.”

Welcome Home: Mommy Gets Out Today - Jamantha Williams

“When Bernice and her favorite cousin, Malaika meet Mother Olivia - Bernice’s mother - for the first time; the girls share similar emotions while forcing themselves to understand society, familial and gender issues. Written primarily for students in grades 1st through 3rd, this story aids youth who are experiencing the return of a parent who has been incarcerated.”

What Do I Say About That - Julia Cook

“Why can’t he see what he did to me - to our family? My dad says that drugs and alcohol made him choose to do the wrong things. But he could have said no to the drugs and the booze, then my life wouldn’t be what it seems. Why didn’t he love us enough to say no? Aren’t we worth it to him? He had a choice . . . us or drugs. He chose to let the drugs win.”

“This book takes a unique look at the internal struggles with which a child of an incarcerated parent is faced. It creatively explores and validates the roller coaster journey of emotions that children of incarcerated parents endure. It also gives insight to the process of healing and coping.”

What is Jail, Mommy? – Jackie Stanglin

“This book was inspired by a much-loved, five-year-old whose father has been incarcerated most of her life. One day after visiting with friends who have both devoted parents in the home, this little girl blurted out to her mother in frustration, “What is jail anyway, and why can’t Daddy be home with us?” She needed answers! When the truth is withheld from children they tend to blame themselves for other’s mistakes and short-comings. It is the author’s firm belief that it is incumbent on each of us to provide age-appropriate facts to young inquiring minds. To do otherwise will be evident in future generations. What Is Jail, Mommy? not only explains why the parent is incarcerated but what his/her life is like as an inmate. Available in Spanish.”

When Andy’s Father Went to Prison - Martha Whitmore Hickman

“A factual yet sensitive picture book about a boy’s father being sent to prison. The black-and-white illustrations of predominately white characters match the detailed story of the sobering event. One feels the quiet sadness Andy experiences in first discovering his father is guilty of a crime, and then the harder task of facing the day-to-day changes this fact has made in his life. His fear of people finding out the truth about his father and his realization that other families have problems also give the book real substance. The wife’s unwavering loyalty, even moving close to the prison in order to visit her husband, encourages the boy’s longing for a happy ending, which happens with the father’s parole”

When Dad Was Away - Liz Weir

“When Mum tells Milly that Dad has been sent to prison, Milly feels angry and confused. She can’t believe her dad won’t be at home to read her stories and make her laugh. But soon Mum takes Milly and her brother Sam to visit Dad in prison, and a week later a special package arrives at home - a cd of Milly’s favourite animal stories, read especially for her by Dad. At Christmas the family go to a party at the prison, and in the spring there’s an even better surprise for Milly and Sam.”

When Daddy Comes Home - Tommy Kapai

“On any given day, more than 20,000 kiwi children have a parent in a New Zealand prison. When Daddy Comes Home, a children’s book written by well-known New Zealand author Tommy Kapai, is a landmark project to initiate a brighter future for these children and their parents. When Daddy Comes Home is not an ordinary book. Tommy has written this book to connect children of prisoners with their parents and inspire the parents to lead a positive life for their children.” 

When I Miss You - Cornelia Maude Spelman

“Young children often experience anxiety when they are separated from their mothers or fathers. In this story a young guinea pig expresses her distress when her mother and father go away. But she eventually finds ways to deal with it.”

When I Visit My Daddy . . . We Dance - Josiah Jonathan, Howell Webber and Ramona Lofton Wright

“This is a book of hope and encouragement for children with parents that are incarcerated, guilty or innocent. The whole world may seem dysfunctional at times, so don’t be surprised if it knocks at your door one day. Be prepared to endure and look to the future with hope, patience and love. You may even want to do a happy dance, every time you overcome an obstacle or receive an unexpected blessing.”

Where’s Dad? - Richard Dyches and Korky Paul

“The story - which helps children understand and cope with losing a parent to incarceration - is about an eight-year-old dreamer of a boy, who imagines himself in a series of fantasy adventures as he tries to find out why the police have taken his dad away and explores his relationship with his mother, sister, grandmother and classmates.”

Wish - Barbara O’Connor

“Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.”

The Year the Swallows Came Early - Kathryn Fitzmaurice

“Expect the unexpected.” That’s what Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson’s horoscope says the morning everything begins to change. Suddenly, her father is in jail, her plans to attend culinary school when she grows up fall apart, and it feels like maybe nothing will ever be right again. But the swallows that return to her coastal town every year bring a message of hope with them that even Groovy can’t ignore. Can she forgive the failings of someone she loves in order to bring her family back together again? Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s tender debut novel about food, family, friendship, and forgiveness is as full of promise as the swallows that return home to San Juan Capistrano every spring.” 

You Weren’t With Me – Chandra Ghosh Ippen

“Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit are together after a difficult separation, but even though they missed each other, Little Rabbit is not ready to cuddle up and receive Big Rabbit’s love. Little Rabbit needs Big Rabbit to understand what it felt like when they were apart. ‘Sometimes I am very mad. I don’t understand why you weren’t with me,’ says Little Rabbit, ‘I worry you will go away again.’ Big Rabbit listens carefully and helps Little Rabbit to feel understood and loved. This story was designed to help parents and children talk about difficult separations to help them reconnect and find their way back to each other. Note: not specifically about parental incarceration.”

The following books are out of print and/or difficult to find. You might want to consider asking your local library about interlibrary loans.

Andy: Another New Dad-less Year - Amanda Florence-Houk

My Mom Went to Jail - Suzanne Bergen and Kathleen Hodgkins

My Mommy’s in Prison - Carol Lynne Vogel

My Mother and I Are Growing Stronger - Inez Maury

Someone I Know Lives in Prison - Rebecca Myers

A Summer’s Worth of Shame - Colby Rodowsky

There Are Some Real Special Kids in Our Class; A Visit with Mommy; A Visit with Daddy - Frank Black

Time to Go - Fran Roznowski

When Can Daddy Come Home? - Martha Whitmore Hickman

Where is My Daddy? – Rev. Dr. Warren A. Rhodes

We’re always looking for books about children with incarcerated parents. If you come across any, let us know!

We do not condone or promote the books on this page. The list was compiled as we became aware of them.