Single-Parent Family Picture Books
Recently, I was asked to put together a list of picture books for young children ages 2-4 with single parent households. Here are my top picks:
The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman with pictures by Ros Asquith: This book is a wonderful primer to talking to children about diversity in families. Each spread focuses on a topic related to families such as homes, holidays, jobs, pets, and most importantly, feelings. This book is a must for school libraries, children’s libraries, and early-grade classroom units on families.
One Family by George Shannon with pictures by Blanca Gomez: This is a quiet, beautiful addition to any library. The characters are multiracial. The only unfortunate aspect is that the characters are predominantly portrayed in hetero-normative relationships. I love how the book begins with a family of one person, who is enjoying a book in her solitude– although she’s not exactly alone since she shares her armchair with a cat. This book manages to steer away from being didactic while focusing on the celebration of different family compositions.
The Family Book by Todd Parr: This is a sweet book to add to a library. Todd Parr is great at inclusive and accessible books. My only criticism with this particular book is that sometimes substituting animals for people can confuse young children who may need literal images to understand the message. It may be confusing that Parr draws both humans and animals to illustrate his message. I wouldn’t rely solely on The Family Book to talk about diverse family structures, but the book can serve as a wonderful addition to a collection.
Families, Families, Families by Suzanne and Max Lang: Similar to the Todd Parr book, this is a sweet picture book about different kinds of families. Great for children who understand that the animals are substituted for people. In this case, it may be a little easier to read the metaphor since there are no pictures of people– only pictures of animal families, where Todd Parr uses illustrations of both people and animals.
All Kinds of Families by Mary Ann Hoberman with pictures by Marc Boutavant: Author of A House is a House for Me, Mary Ann Hoberman’s wordplay is brilliant and Marc Boutavant has such a unique and whimsical illustration style. This is a wordier book than the titles above, and may suit an older reader. This is a highly recommended addition to a unit on families, and what defines a family. I wish there were more pictures of families with an emphasis on racial and ethnic diversity as well as on some more diverse family structures.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams: A Chair for My Mother is about a working single mother and her daughter, Rosa. This is a longer book than the other titles on this list, and one of only two narrative children’s books, focusing exclusively on a single family unit. Williams was a master at understanding urban children’s experiences, particularly those coming from working class families, often portraying life with a single mother. All of her books are highly recommended.
My Mother the Mail Carrier/Mi Mamá la Cartera by Inez Maury with pictures by Lady McCrady; Translated by Norah E. Alemany: Sadly, this book is out-of-print, and arguably slightly out-of-date. I adore this easy reader, published in 1976 by The Feminist Press. This book is written in Spanish and English, and is told from the perspective of Lupita, the daughter of a single mother. The two of them live in a small apartment in a city and the mother works as a mail carrier. Lupita learns about the world through her outspoken, intelligent, working mother. I love that the story ends with Lupita asserting her independence in her choice not to become a mail carrier when she is a grownup. She has learned to be her own person from her mother’s wonderful example.