BOOKS THAT HELP – SEPARATION/ DIVORCE

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EMILYS BLUE PERIOD (Cathleen Daly, Lisa Brown)

Emily’s Blue Period (First Second, 2014) is a picture book about a girl who seeks solace in art as she deals with her parent’s separation. Emily is learning about Pablo Picasso at school, when she suddenly finds herself out of sorts. Mum and Dad are not living together, Emily’s brother Jack is playing up and everything feels wrong. Emily decides she cannot complete her art project because she is feeling sad and in her blue period, just like Picasso.

The story, which is split into six short ‘chapters,’ provides an honest portrayal of parental separation and the main character’s complex and conflicting emotions. Emily eventually discovers the source of her blue period – she doesn’t know whether Mum’s house or Dad’s house is her home.  Her teacher suggests making a collage combining all the things that are important to her in one piece, “taking things from different places to make a whole.”

The references to Picasso and Cubism and the emotional complexity of the main character’s arc, means this is an especially helpful read for older children.


FRED STAYS WITH ME (Nancy Coffelt, Tricia Tusa)

Fred Stays With Me (Little, Brown Young Readers) is a picture book told in first person point of view about a character who sometimes live with Mum and sometimes lives with Dad. The experiences at each parent’s house are shown largely through the eyes of Fred, the dog and how he behaves. At Mum’s, he barks at next door’s poodle. At Dad’s, he steals the socks! Neither parent wants Fred to stay with them, but the main character helps to solve the dispute by declaring to her parents that Fred doesn’t live with either of them. Fred stays with her. 

What’s nice about this is the sorry is the symbiotic relationship between the girl and Fred. When one is happy, they both are. When one is sad, they are there for each other. Whilst a separation can feel like a loss of control, this story empowers readers and shows them how, in this case, strength is found in the consistency of the family pet.


MY BIG FANTASTIC FAMILY (Adam and Charlotte Guillain, Ali Pye)

From the very first page we know from the outset that the main character, Lily-May, lives with Mum, not Dad. Lily-May’s story is set post-parental split and she recounts some of the changes and difficulties there have been. But there are plenty of advantages too! Like more play time and more of everyone. Now Lily-May has extra grandparents and more siblings. It isn’t always plain sailing, but in My Big Fantastic Family (Nosy Crow, 2022) the reader follows the main character through the ups and downs of what it can look like when parents separate… and grow!

This is a colourful and accessible look at parental separation with a focus on a fun and hopeful future, and on what families can look like further down the line. A great book for those whose who are soon to be introduced to new partners and kin.

Bright illustrations from Ali Pye and a clear and positive message from Adam and Charlotte Guillian.


REMIXED (Aree Chung)

In Mixed City, colours mix when they fall in love. Things are bright and joyful at the beginning of the story, but families change. All sorts of worries go through the characters’ heads as the characters experience loss and separation: Am I good enough? Did I make a mistake? Will they get along? Will he like me? But Remixed (Macmillan, 2022) reaffirms to the reader that with open minds and hearts, love grows.

The message of this picture book – that families don’t always stay the same, they remix, blending past and present – is perfectly executed through the use of colour, and is accessible to very young children. Fun and bright illustrations give this a pitch perfect, light-hearted feel, great for readers with newly blended families. Indeed, this would be an especially good read for a child meeting new members of their family for the first time because whilst change isn’t easy, things usually turn out ok, and sometimes much better than before.


EVERYTHING CHANGES (Clare Helen Welsh, Åsa Gilland)

Laughing and playing together as a family on the beach, it seems the happy, warm days of summer will never end. Then, everything changes. Mummy and daddy say they can’t live together anymore, and sad, worried feelings begin to emerge – It’s not fair! Was it all my fault?  But, as time passes and the seasons change, it becomes clearer that hard times won’t always be quite so hard . . .

Everything Changes (Little Tiger Press, 2022) lyrical book about the difficult emotions a child can feel when their parents break up, with an optimistic message of hope and resilience. Gorgeous illustrations and an emotive colour palette perfectly capture the nuances of emotion felt by both the child and parents during a separation. Much like Pat Thomas’s My Family’s Changing, Claire Masurel’s Two Homes and Patrice Karst’s The Invisible String, this story offers a way to help children understand their feelings during big changes in their family unit.

A sensitively told story that addresses the tricky subject of divorce and parent separation with care and understanding.


MUM AND DAD GLUE (Kes Gray, Lee Wildish)


Told in a soothing rhyme, Mum and Dad Glue (Hodder, 2010) follows the main character as he navigates the worries that occur to him when his parents separate. The little boy searches for a glue to hold his family together, but he eventually realises there is no glue for parents and that’s ok, because despite his parents’ break up, their love for him will always remain. The boy is encouraged to be strong and look past the hurt into the future, making this book more suited to families with an acrimonious breakup.

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