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Abuse: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about abuse?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to abuse. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about abuse.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

When it comes to children’s stories about abuse, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Gossamer to popular sellers like To Kill a Mockingbird to some of our favorite hidden gems like Caleb and Kit.

We hope this list of kids books about abuse can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!

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To Kill a Mockingbird
Written by Harper Lee
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

One of the most cherished stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

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My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes
Written by pro Familia & illustrated by Dagmar Geisler
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

An informational picture book that provides children with confidence about accepting and rejecting physical contact from others is an invaluable resource that can help give children a voice in uncomfortable situations.

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Caleb and Kit
Written by Beth Vrabel
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

From award-winning author Beth Vrabel comes a powerfully moving story about a magical friendship, coping with disability, and the pains of growing up and growing apart. Twelve-year-old Caleb is shorter, frailer, and more protected than most kids his age. That’s because he has cystic fibrosis, a diagnosis meaning lungs that fill with mucus and a shortened lifespan. Caleb tries not to let his disorder define him, but it can be hard with an overprotective mom and a perfect big brother. Then Caleb meets Kit–a vibrant, independent, and free girl–and his world changes instantly. Kit reads Caleb’s palm and tells him they are destined to become friends. She calls birds down from the sky and turns every day into an adventure. Her magic is contagious, making Caleb question the rules and order in his life. But being Kit’s friend means embracing deception and danger, and soon Caleb will have to decide if his friendship with Kit is really what’s best for him–or her. This new paperback edition includes a Q&A with the author as well as a sneak peek at Beth Vrabel’s next middle grade novel, The Humiliations of Pipi McGee.

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Novalee and the Spider Secret
Written by Lori Ann Stephens
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

“My secret sits at the back of my throat like a balled-up spider. I don’t like it there. Who would? Spider secrets are the worst. For a whole year, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get this one out, but I’m afraid if I move, that secret might stretch out its legs and crawl down my throat, all the way to my stomach where I’ll never be able to reach it.” Novalee starts the fourth grade determined to not just make friends but to change herself from boring Nova into super Nova. Her mom finds her grandfather’s violin, and Nova decides to take lessons. It seems to work as Nova finds acceptance for her growing skill. But her world soon tumbles out of control when her violin teacher does something that threatens her universe: he kisses her. She makes an unlikely friendship with a fellow outcast, Toby, who helps her find the courage, voice, and persistence to confront the spider secret.

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Fighting Words
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-

A candid and fierce middle grade novel about sisterhood and sexual abuse, by Newbery Honor winner and #1 New York Times best seller Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

Ten-tear-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 <i>fast,</i> 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.

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  • The Invisible Boy - If no one sees him, does he exist? This superhero-inspired adventure story explores friendship and what it means to be truly brave. Nadia looks for adventure in the pages of her Superman comic books, until a mysterious boy saves her dog from drowning during a storm and then disappears. Now she finds herself in the role of Lois Lane, hunting down the scoop of the Invisible Boy. Suddenly she’s in a real-life adventure that’s far more dangerous than anything in her comic books. The Invisible Boy is a mystery and an adventure story, as well as a story about child labor trafficking. Like Katherine Applegate, author of Crenshaw and Wishtree, Alyssa Hollingsworth takes a difficult subject matter and makes it accessible for middle-grade readers. Featuring illustrations by Deborah Lee

  • Hey, Dog - A boy cares for, feeds, and helps an abused stray dog to learn to trust humans again.

  • A Friend Like Iggy - Iggy has an important job to do. The true story of Iggy, a special dog who helps kids navigate difficult times. When children disclose abuse, they often navigate an unfamiliar chain of events, sometimes testifying in court. Iggy is a specially trained facilitator dog, and his job is to make each child he meets comfortable with the job they have to do. Iggy eases their path with his gentle, non-judgmental friendship. He can be present for police interviews, counseling sessions, court preparation, and testifying. He helps children aged three to eighteen feel more comfortable and confident. It’s a big job, but not too big for a dog with an even bigger heart.

  • Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect: Teach children about body ownership, respect, feelings, choices and recognizing bullying behaviors - Teaching young children about body boundaries, both theirs and others, is crucial to a child's growing sense of self, their confidence and how they should expect to be treated by others. A child growing up knowing they have a right to their own personal space, gives that child ownership and choices as to what happens to them and to their body. It is equally important a child understands, from a very young age, they need to respect another person's body boundary and ask for their consent when entering their personal space. This book explores these concepts with children in a child-friendly and easily-understood manner, providing familiar scenarios for children to engage with and discuss. It is important that the reader and the child take the time required to unpack each scenario and explore what they mean both to the character in the book, who may not be respecting someone's body boundary, and to the character who is being disrespected. It is through these vital discussions that children will learn the meaning of body boundaries, consent and respect. Learning these key social skills through such stories as 'Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect' and role-modelling by significant adults can, importantly, carry forward into a child's teenage years and adult life.

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The War That Saved My Life
Written & illustrated by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A young disabled girl and her brother are evacuated from London to the English countryside during World War II, where they find life to be much sweeter away from their abusive mother.

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Every Missing Piece
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
A stunning voice-driven novel about grief, family, and putting the pieces back together for "fans of Rebecca Stead and Erin Entrada Kelly" (BCCB) and "readers who enjoyed The Thing About Jellyfish (Booklist).
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Our Gracie Aunt
Written by Jacqueline Woodson & illustrated by Jon J Muth
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

Johsnon 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.

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What Is a Refugee?
Written & illustrated by Elise Gravel
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7
An accessible picture book that oh-so-simply and graphically introduces the term "refugee" to curious young children to help them better understand the world in which they live.
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Genesis Begins Again
Written & illustrated by Alicia D. Williams
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When your dad is a gambling addict and loses the rent money every month, eviction is a regular occurrence.

What’s not so regular is that this time they all don’t have a place to crash, so Genesis and her mom have to stay with her grandma. It’s not that Genesis doesn’t like her grandma, but she and Mom always fight—Grandma haranguing Mom to leave Dad, that she should have gone back to school, that if she’d married a lighter skinned man none of this would be happening, and on and on and on. But things aren’t all bad. Genesis actually likes her new school; she’s made a couple friends, her choir teacher says she has real talent, and she even encourages Genesis to join the talent show.

But how can Genesis believe anything her teacher says when her dad tells her the exact opposite? How can she stand up in front of all those people with her dark, dark skin knowing even her own family thinks lesser of her because of it? Why, why, why won’t the lemon or yogurt or fancy creams lighten her skin like they’re supposed to? And when Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

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  • Molly's Story: A Puppy Tale - Meet Molly--a very special dog with a very important purpose--featured in A Dog's Journey, soon to be a major motion picture! Young readers will love this story in the popular A Dog's Purpose Puppy Tales series by bestselling author W. Bruce Cameron. Molly knows that her purpose is to take care of her girl, C.J., but it won't be easy. Neglected by her mother, Gloria, who won't allow her to have a dog, C.J. is going through some tough times. Molly's job is to stay hidden in C.J.'s room, cuddle up to her at night, and protect her from bad people. And no matter what Gloria does to separate them, nothing will keep Molly away from the girl that she loves. Adorable black-and-white illustrations by Richard Cowdrey bring Molly and her world to life. Also includes a discussion and activity guide that will help promote family and classroom discussions about Molly's Story and the insights it provides about humankind's best friends. Read all the books in the bestselling series:
    Ellie's Story
    Bailey's Story
    Lily's Story
    Max's Story
    Shelby's Story
    Toby's Story

  • Matilda - From the bestselling author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG! Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!

  • The Big Bad Wolf in My House - A young girl describes what it's like when her mom's new friend comes to stay -- a moving story about domestic violence that ends on a hopeful note.

  • Chirp - [A] deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up. - Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Shout

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My Jasper June
Written by Laurel Snyder
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

"This book is a treasure--a touching story of friendship, loss, and finding beauty in the everyday, with characters who stay with you long after you've turned the final page. I absolutely loved it."--R. J. Palacio, New York Times bestselling author of Wonder

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Under Our Clothes
Written by Jillian Roberts & illustrated by Jane Heinrichs
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

This illustrated nonfiction picture book by child psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts introduces children to the topics of bodies, body safety and body image through a conversation-based story that begins with an observation at the community pool. Modesty, privacy and boundaries are discussed, along with how self-image is formed and how some people are more sensitive than others–sometimes at different stages in their lives. Relevant themes around body shaming, body positivity and self-esteem building are explored, with a final call to action empowering children to build their own confidence and speak up when something doesn’t feel right. The World Around Us series introduces children to complex cultural, social and environmental issues that they may encounter outside the comfort of their homes, in a way that is straightforward and accessible. Sidebars offer further reading for older children who have bigger questions or care providers looking for more information. For younger children, the simple question-and-answer format of the main text will provide a foundation of knowledge on the subject matter. This is the newest title in The World Around Us series, following books that address poverty, tragedy, prejudice and online awarenessand environemental stewardship.

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My Quiet Ship
Written by Hallee Adelman & illustrated by Sonia Sanchez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Whenever the yelling in his house starts, Quinn runs to a special hiding place. There he becomes captain of the Quiet Ship, where he can get far, far away from the yelling that hurts his ears and makes him feel scared. But one day the Quiet Ship is broken and Quinn needs a new plan, one that requires him to be brave. A thoughtful treatment of a difficult topic, this story is for any child who faces fighting in the home.

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Nobody Knew What to Do
Written by Becky Ray McCain & illustrated by Todd Leonardo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Straightforward and simple, this story tells how one child found the courage to tell a teacher about Ray, who was being picked on and bullied by other kids in school. Faced with the fact that “nobody knows what to do” while Ray is bullied, the children sympathetic to him feel fear and confusion and can only hope that Ray will “fit in some day.” Finally, after Ray misses a day of school and the bullies plot mean acts for his return, our narrator goes to a teacher. The children then invite Ray to play with them, and, with adult help, together they stand up to the bullies.

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The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him and to let them know him.”–

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  • ABC of Body Safety and Consent - The 26 ‘key’ letters and accompanying words will help children to learn and consolidate age-appropriate, crucial and life-changing body safety and consent skills. Designed as a ‘dip in and dip out’ book, the text, the child-centred questions and the stunning illustrations will reinforce key skills such as consent, respect, body boundaries, safe and unsafe touch, Early Warning Signs, Safety Network, private parts, and the difference between secrets and surprises. Also included are Discussion Questions for parents, caregivers and educators. Suitable for children 4 to 10 years.

  • Not in Room 204 - Mrs. Salvador is one tough teacher. But Regina Lillian Hadwig, a very quiet student, doesn’t mind. She likes the order and discipline Mrs. Salvador expects. At a report card conference, Mrs. Salvador tells Regina’s mom that Regina is doing a great job, but that she is very quiet. “Are you quiet at home, like you are in school?” Mrs. Salvador asks Regina. And Regina thinks of the secret she keeps so quiet—the one even her mom doesn’t know, about the secret things her father does. “Yes, I’m quiet at home, too,” says Regina. “Maybe we can work on that,” says Mrs. Salvador. When Mrs. Salvador reads a book about Stranger Danger, she emphasizes one thing—that the person doing the inappropriate touching might not be a stranger at all. It might be someone a child knows very well. Will Regina find the courage to tell Mrs. Salvador her terrible secret?

  • The Lottery Rose - A boy learns what it means to give and receive love in this beautifully refreshed edition of Lottery Rose from Newbery Award-winning author Irene Hunt.

  • Gossamer - From the two-time Newbery Award winning author of Number the Stars and The Giver, comes a novel about how even the smallest of dreams can break through the darkest of nights.
     
    Littlest One is a tiny creature slowly learning her job of giving dreams to humans. Each night she and her teacher, Thin Elderly, visit an old woman’s home where she softly touches beloved objects, gathering happy memories, and drops of old scents and sounds. Littlest One pieces these bits together and presents them to her sleeping human in the form of pleasant dreams. But the dreaded Sinisteeds, dark fearsome creatures that plague their victims with nightmares, are always at work against the dreamgivers. When the old woman takes in John, an angry foster child with a troubled past, the Sinisteeds go after him with their horrifying nightmares. Can Littlest One, and her touch light as gossamer, protect John’s heart and soul from the nightmare of his dark past?

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Snow Lane
Written by Josie Angelini
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Fifth grader Annie is just like every other girl in her small suburban town. Except she’s starting to realize that she isn’t.

Annie is the youngest of nine children. Instead of being condemned to the bottom of the pecking order, she wants to carve out place for herself in the world. But it’s hard to find your destiny when the only thing you’re good at is being cheerful. Annie is learning that it’s difficult to be Annie, period, and not just because her clothes are worn-out hand-me-downs, and she suffers from a crippling case of dyslexia, but also because there are secrets in her life no one in her family is willing to face.

In Snow Lane, Josie Angelini presents a story about a resilient girl who, in spite of many hardships, can still find light in the darkest of places.

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Signal
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-13

One day while running on the trail near his house in upstate New York, Owen McGuire meets a girl with startling green eyes and bloody cuts all over her body who seems to be utterly alone. Her name is Campion, after the wildflower that is an alien species in the area--"alien "meaning "from someplace else"--and Campion claims to come from someplace else entirely, a planet called Home. She plans to signal her parents to come pick her up in their spaceship. Owen agrees to help, and as he does, he feels happier than he has in a long time: his mother died a year and a half ago, and now he and his workaholic father live together like two planets on separate orbits, in a new house far from his friends. What will he do when Campion asks him to come with her into outer space, away from his lonely life on Earth?

In this moving novel, two friendless kids search the night sky for something to believe in--but discover that they've found what they need right here on Earth.

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At the End of Holyrood Lane
Written by Dimity Powell & illustrated by Nicky Johnston
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Flick is just like any other youngster. She loves to chase butterflies and jump in autumn leaves. But life at the end of Holyrood Lane is often violent and unpredictable due to the constant storms that plague her home, causing her to cringe with dread and flee whenever they strike. Visually arresting, emotionally incisive, and ultimately uplifting, this beautifully crafted picture book provides a sensitive glimpse into one aspect of domestic violence and how it can affect young lives.

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