Today, two worlds collide. In my day job I work as a reviewer for Common Sense Media, an organization that helps families make decisions about their kids’ media choices. Knowing that I am an advocate for families, my editor tends to assign books to me that focus on kids going through family stuff.
Kids can benefit from seeing parts of their lives reflected in the books they read. It helps them to feel like their experiences are normal. I want to share some book suggestions with you, and you can find the links in the show notes. These are books I have read to or with my kid to help open her horizons and to see that families can look different and that kids have a place in them, no matter what.
In this episode, we talk about…
[1:21] Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban
I’m going to start with a great title for younger kids. I’d say age 6 and up, but a parent who reviewed it on Common Sense Media said it’s good for kids age 4 and up, and any kid who might be coping with adjusting to living in two houses. In this book, Max is a 9-year-old kid whose dad has moved out of their home and into an apartment.
We see Max feeling uncomfortable in his body, like somebody is sitting on his chest. Sometimes he needs to break into a run just to get out his wiggles. One thing I like about this book is that Max’s dad is good at making him feel like even difficult changes can be an adventure. This book is great to read to younger kids who might feel like they’re the only ones going through family changes. It is playful, inventive, and will help them feel more at ease knowing that a kid like Max and an adult as playful and human as his dad are going through big changes too.
[2:17] Pavi Sharma’s Guide to Going Home by Bridget Farr
The next book is for kids 9 and up. This book is about a foster kid named Pavi, who is growing up in Austin, Texas. She and her foster brother, Hamilton, are good students, but Pavi’s side gig helping other foster kids adjust to life in their new foster homes takes a toll on her schoolwork. She finds out that a little girl at the foster care shelter is being placed in a home where Pavi had a bad experience. She and Hamilton try to stop the placement, but they may be biting off more than they can chew.
Pavi’s foster mom is a solo mom named Marjorie. She’s a teacher and a mother to Hamilton and she handles tough moments with a cool head.
[3:03] Parked by Danielle Svetcov
The next book is for older kids, 11 and up. It is about a kid living in a van with her solo mom. The book begins with a 12-year-old girl named Jeanne Ann, who is living in Chicago and spending a lot of time in the library while her solo mom works long hours in a restaurant. Her mom buys an orange van that they name The Carrot, which she equips with bookshelves, a bed, and pots and pans.
When they arrive in San Francisco, they park by the bay among other vans with people living in them. Jeanne Ann’s mom isn’t able to secure a job as easily as she thought she would, and her life in the van begins to feel pretty desperate. There are hopeful aspects to the story, friendships that blossom, and opportunities that arise, but it does take a look at what poverty and hardship feels like for families.