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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! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

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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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Hey, Dog
Written by Tony Johnston & illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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

The Invisible Boy book
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A Friend Like Iggy book
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The War That Saved My Life book
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Our Gracie Aunt book
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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

  • 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.

  • The War That Saved My Life - 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.

  • Our Gracie Aunt - 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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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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Matilda
Written by Roald Dahl & illustrated by Quentin Blake
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

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!

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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.

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones book
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Not in Room 204 book
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Gossamer book
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Snow Lane book
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  • The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones - “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.”—

  • 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?

  • 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?

  • Snow Lane - 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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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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