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Family Problems: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about family problems?

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

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, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.

When it comes to children’s stories about family problems, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear to popular sellers like Hatchet to some of our favorite hidden gems like The Infinity Year of Avalon James.

We hope this list of kids books about family problems 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.

Top 10 Books About Family Problems

The Invisible String book
#1
The Invisible String
Written by Patrice Karst & illustrated by Geoff Stevenson
Thoughts from The Goodfather

I love the lesson shared by this book. I especially love how well the story of the String works literally, like the “tugs” that we feel for each other.

Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This sweet story is such a sweet read to help little ones realize that they’re connected to the ones they love, even when they’re not nearby. Whether that’s because a family member passed away, or maybe the child is starting their first day of school, this one will bring comfort and all the good feelings!

picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Picture book for children 4-8 years of age. A simple story that reminds children they are never truly alone. People who love each other are connected by an invisible string made of love.

Two Homes book
#2
Two Homes
Written by Claire Masurel & illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A young boy named Alex enjoys the homes of both of his parents who live apart but love Alex very much, in a comforting story about the reality of divorce. Reprint.

Moon Shadow book
#3
Moon Shadow
Written & illustrated by Erin Downing
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Thirteen-year-old Lucia Frank discovers that she can become the girl she’s always wanted to be with the help of a little “moon magic” in this charming novel about the value of friendship, family, and finding yourself. Lucia Frank has never had time for her mom’s “new age” nonsense. She doesn’t believe in any of that stuff. All she wants is to figure out how to get her best friend, Will, back and cope with her parents looming divorce. But then something strange happens on the night of her thirteenth birthday. When the eclipsed moon slips into the shadow of the earth, Lucia’s Shadow slips out. Now hidden in a moonstone, the Shadow waits for Lucia to sleep so it can come out to play. Lucia’s Shadow seems unlike her in almost every way: daring, outspoken, and unwilling to let anyone push her around. But it actually isn’t the anti-Lucia…in fact, her Shadow is very much like the person Lucia wishes she could be. At first, Lucia is eager to undo whatever magic happened on her birthday so life can get back to normal. But when she realizes her Shadow is doing and saying things she has only dreamed about, she wonders if maybe things aren’t all bad. With a little help from her Shadow, she’s turning into the kind of girl she’s always wanted to be.

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones book
#4
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.”—

It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear book
#5
It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear
Written & illustrated by Vicki Lansky
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

KoKo bear learns what divorce means, how to deal with changes and how to recognize and deal with feelings

Always Mom, Forever Dad book
#6
Always Mom, Forever Dad
Written by Joanna Rowland & illustrated by Penny Weber
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-6

Children whose parents no longer live together discover that although much has changed, and time spent with Mom is different than time spent with Dad, love is there no matter what.

Emily's Blue Period book
#7
Emily's Blue Period
Written by Cathleen Daly & illustrated by Lisa Brown
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

After her parents get divorced, Emily finds comfort in making and learning about art.

Blended book
#8
Blended
Written by Sharon Draper
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper. Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole? It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

My Family's Changing book
#9
My Family's Changing
Written by Pat Thomas & illustrated by Lesley Harker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

This unusual picture book for younger children explores the issue of divorce. The author of this book is a psychotherapist and counselor and helps children to face their fears, worries and questions when their family is going through a break-up. A special feature, “What About You?” sidebars appear frequently with questions directed at the child reading the book. The questions encourage children to explore their own feeling about the situation. Full color illustrations throughout.

Dinosaurs Divorce! book
#10
Dinosaurs Divorce!
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

This timely, reassuring picture book is the perfect resource to help young children and their families deal with the confusion, misconceptions, and anxieties apt to arise when divorce occurs.

Table of Contents
Scroll to books about Family Problems and...

Books About Family Problems and Divorce

The Invisible String
Written by Patrice Karst & illustrated by Geoff Stevenson
Thoughts from The Goodfather

I love the lesson shared by this book. I especially love how well the story of the String works literally, like the “tugs” that we feel for each other.

Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This sweet story is such a sweet read to help little ones realize that they’re connected to the ones they love, even when they’re not nearby. Whether that’s because a family member passed away, or maybe the child is starting their first day of school, this one will bring comfort and all the good feelings!

picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Picture book for children 4-8 years of age. A simple story that reminds children they are never truly alone. People who love each other are connected by an invisible string made of love.

Two Homes
Written by Claire Masurel & illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

A young boy named Alex enjoys the homes of both of his parents who live apart but love Alex very much, in a comforting story about the reality of divorce. Reprint.

Moon Shadow
Written & illustrated by Erin Downing
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Thirteen-year-old Lucia Frank discovers that she can become the girl she’s always wanted to be with the help of a little “moon magic” in this charming novel about the value of friendship, family, and finding yourself. Lucia Frank has never had time for her mom’s “new age” nonsense. She doesn’t believe in any of that stuff. All she wants is to figure out how to get her best friend, Will, back and cope with her parents looming divorce. But then something strange happens on the night of her thirteenth birthday. When the eclipsed moon slips into the shadow of the earth, Lucia’s Shadow slips out. Now hidden in a moonstone, the Shadow waits for Lucia to sleep so it can come out to play. Lucia’s Shadow seems unlike her in almost every way: daring, outspoken, and unwilling to let anyone push her around. But it actually isn’t the anti-Lucia…in fact, her Shadow is very much like the person Lucia wishes she could be. At first, Lucia is eager to undo whatever magic happened on her birthday so life can get back to normal. But when she realizes her Shadow is doing and saying things she has only dreamed about, she wonders if maybe things aren’t all bad. With a little help from her Shadow, she’s turning into the kind of girl she’s always wanted to be.

Honorable Mentions
  1. 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.”—

  2. It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear - KoKo bear learns what divorce means, how to deal with changes and how to recognize and deal with feelings

  3. Always Mom, Forever Dad - Children whose parents no longer live together discover that although much has changed, and time spent with Mom is different than time spent with Dad, love is there no matter what.

  4. Emily's Blue Period - After her parents get divorced, Emily finds comfort in making and learning about art.

Books About Family Problems and Social Themes

The Infinity Year of Avalon James
Written by Dana Middleton
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Avalon James and Atticus Brightwell have a secret—one that they aren’t allowed to discuss with anyone. This secret is shared between two best friends. When you and your best friend turn ten years old magical things are said to happen. You both will receive some kind of magical power. It can be a power you can call on time and time again. Or it can be a power that comes once when you need it most. It’s your Infinity Year and the possibilities are endless.

The past year hasn’t been great with her family being torn apart and bullying at school, so Avalon is depending on her magical ability to appear soon and help. With the clock ticking and her eleventh birthday approaching, which would be the end of her powers, Avalon’s hopes are running high. Will she and Atticus get the powers they so desperately want and need?

Dana Middleton’s debut novel is a wonderfully enchanting story of the possibility of magic and the even more magical bond between two best friends.

Al Capone Does My Shirts
Written & illustrated by Gennifer Choldenko
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister Natalie. A Newbery Honor Book & ALA Notable Book. Reprint. Jr Lib Guild & Children’s BOMC.

For Black Girls Like Me
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark. Makeda June Kirkland is eleven-years-old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena- the only other adopted black girl she knows- for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one true friend. Through it all, Makeda can’t help wondering: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me? Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.

Honorable Mentions
  1. All the Ways Home - Sometimes, home isn’t where you expect to find it. After losing his mom in a fatal car crash, Kaede Hirano—now living with a grandfather who is more stranger than family—developed anger issues and spent his last year of middle school acting out. Best-friendless and critically in danger repeating the seventh grade, Kaede is given a summer assignment: write an essay about what home means to him, which will be even tougher now that he’s on his way to Japan to reconnect with his estranged father and older half-brother. Still, if there’s a chance Kaede can finally build a new family from an old one, he’s willing to try. But building new relationships isn’t as easy as destroying his old ones, and one last desperate act will change the way Kaede sees everyone—including himself. This is a book about what home means to us—and that there are many different correct answers.

  2. Genesis Begins Again - 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?

  3. Where the Watermelons Grow - Fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and A Snicker of Magic will be swept away by Cindy Baldwin’s debut middle grade about a girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness. When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time. With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations. But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

  4. Here's to You, Rachel Robinson - From the New York Times bestselling author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and the adult bestseller In the Unlikely Event comes a tale of family, friendship, and pre-teen life like only JUDY BLUME can deliver. The companion to Just As Long As We’re Together.
     
     
    CAN YOU BE too perfect?
     
    From the outside, Rachel looks like the perfect daughter in the perfect family. She’s a straight-A student, a gifted musician, and a good friend. But Rachel feels as if it’s all falling apart. Her brother, Charles, was just kicked out of boarding school and is now at home, wreaking havoc. Her sister, Jessica, has problems of her own, which Rachel thinks it’s her job to help solve. And Rachel herself is considering adding drama club, community service, and class president to her already crowded roster of activities. Rachel’s best friends, Stephanie and Alison, urge Rachel to lighten up and enjoy the end of seventh grade. Easy for them to say. Not so easy for Rachel. Not even when Jeremy Dragon, the coolest boy in ninth grade, notices her. Is it possible that perfection isn’t the key to an exciting life?
     
    An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
    “A master.” —SLJ

Books About Family Problems and Marriage And Divorce

All of Me
Written by Chris Baron
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Ari has body-image issues. After a move across the country, his parents work selling and promoting his mother’s paintings and sculptures. Ari’s bohemian mother needs space to create, and his father is gone for long stretches of time on “sales” trips. Meanwhile, Ari makes new friends: Pick, the gamer; the artsy Jorge, and the troubled Lisa. He is also relentlessly bullied because he’s overweight, but he can’t tell his parents—they’re simply not around enough to listen. After an upsetting incident, Ari’s mom suggests he go on a diet, and she gives him a book to help. But the book—and the diet—can’t fix everything. As Ari faces the demise of his parents’ marriage, he also feels himself changing, both emotionally and physically. Here is a much-needed story about accepting the imperfect in oneself and in life.

Tiny Infinities
Written & illustrated by J. H. Diehl
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

When Alice’s dad moves out, leaving her with her troubled mother, she does the only thing that feels right: she retreats to her family’s old Renaissance tent in the backyard, determined to live there until her dad comes home. In an attempt to keep at least one part of her summer from changing, Alice focuses on her quest to swim freestyle fast enough to get on her swim team’s record board. But summers contain multitudes, and soon Alice meets an odd new friend, Harriet, whose obsession with the school’s science fair is equal only to her conviction that Alice’s best stroke is backstroke, not freestyle. Most unexpected of all is an unusual babysitting charge, Piper, who is mute—until Alice hears her speak. A funny and honest middle-grade novel, this sharply observed depiction of family, friendship, and Alice’s determination to prove herself—as a babysitter, as a friend, as a daughter, as a person—rings loud and true.

Raymie Nightingale
Written by Kate DiCamillo
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A 2016 National Book Award Finalist!

Two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo returns to her roots with a moving, masterful story of an unforgettable summer friendship.

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Honeybees and Frenemies - Twelve-year-old Flor faces a bittersweet summer with a pageant, a frenemy, and a hive full of honey. It’s the summer before eighth grade and Flor is stuck at home and working at her family’s mattress store, while her best friend goes off to band camp (probably to make new friends). It becomes even worse when she’s asked to compete in the local honey pageant. This means Flor has to spend the summer practicing her talent (recorder) and volunteering (helping a recluse bee-keeper) with Candice, her former friend who’s still bitter about losing the pageant crown to Flor when they were in second grade. And she can’t say no. Then there’s the possibility that Flor and her family are leaving to move in with her mom’s family in New Jersey. And with how much her mom and dad have been fighting lately, is it possible that her dad may not join them? Flor can’t let that happen. She has a lot of work to do.

  2. The Lost Boy's Gift - There are places where you want to go and places where you want to leave. There are also places where you want to stay. Nine-year-old Daniel must move across the country with his mom after his parents’ divorce. He’s leaving behind his whole life—everything—and he’s taking a suitcase of anger with him. But Daniel is in for a surprise when he settles into While-a-Way Lane and meets his new neighbors—the Lemonade Girl, the hopscotching mailman, the tiny creatures, and especially Tilda Butter. Tilda knows how to look and listen closely, and it’s that gift that helps Daniel find his way in that curious place called While-a-Way Lane. Kimberly Willis Holt explores themes of divorce, acceptance, intergenerational friendship, and the power that comes with listening thoughtfully in this insightful novel.

  3. The Friendship Lie - Cora Davis’s life is garbage. Literally. Her professor parents study what happens to trash after it gets thrown away, and Cora knows exactly how it feels—to be thrown away. Between her mom and dad separating and a fallout with her best friend, fifth grade for Cora has been a year of feeling like being tossed into the dumpster. But Cora has learned a couple of things from her parents’ trash-tracking studies: Things don’t always go where they’re supposed to, and sometimes the things you thought you got rid of come back. And occasionally, one person’s trash is another’s treasure, which Cora and Sybella learn when they come across a diary detailing best-friendship problems. Told in two intertwining points of view, comes a warm, wry story of friendship, growing up, and being true to yourself. Written by Rebecca Donnelly, author of How to Stage a Catastrophe (an Indies Introduce and Indie Next List honoree), The Friendship Lie will speak to any reader who has struggled with what to hold on to and what to throw away.

Books About Family Problems and Multigenerational

Caterpillar Summer
Written by Gillian McDunn
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Cat and her brother Chicken have always had a very special bond. When Chicken has a “meltdown”, Cat’s the one who scratches his back and reads his favorite story. She’s always knows what he needs. Since their mom has had to work double-hard to keep their family afloat after their father passed away, Cat is the glue holding her family together. When a summer trip doesn’t go as planned, Cat and Chicken end up spending three weeks with grandparents they’ve never met. With their help, Cat can be a kid again for the first time in years, and the journey she takes shows that even the most broken relationships can be healed if people take the time to walk in one another’s shoes. Perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, this special novel features an unforgettable voice and is brimming with heart.

Summer of a Thousand Pies
Written by Margaret Dilloway
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A heartfelt contemporary middle grade novel about a girl who must try to save her aunt’s failing pie shop, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish, Fish in a Tree—and The Great British Baking Show. When Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she isn’t sure what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad. Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs. Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she’s learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix? Summer of a Thousand Pies is a sweet and satisfying treat of a novel full of friendship, family, and, of course, pie.

Finding Esme
Written by Suzanne Crowley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

After her grandfather died from a heart attack while driving his tractor on Solace Hill, twelve-year-old Esme’s been inextricably drawn to that spot, although her grandmother warns her to stay away. But when she follows her little brother, Bo, and her dog, Old Jack, up the hill while chasing fireflies, she makes an incredible discovery—dinosaur bones peeking out from underneath the abandoned tractor.

The bones must be a message from her grandfather, a connection from beyond the grave. But when word gets out that the farm is hiding something valuable, reporters, researchers, and neighbors arrive in droves. Esme struggles to understand who has her best interests at heart, especially as the memory of her grandfather begins to slip away.

Full of friendship and adventure, and featuring a palpable Texas setting, Finding Esme is a moving and heartfelt story about family, friendship, and learning to deal with loss.

From acclaimed author Suzanne Crowley, this engaging adventure set on a Texas peach farm is just right for fans of Rebecca Stead and Ann M. Martin.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Surprise Lily - Ten-year-old Rose’s perfect life is upended when her long-absent disaster of a mother turns up. Can she hold her family together as everything unravels? Growing up on the farm it was always just Rose and grandma, working the land that had been in the Lovell family for generations. She doesn’t miss her mother, Iris, a bit. In fact, when Iris shows up, Rose is furious. But when an ugly argument between her mother and grandmother reveals painful truths about their family history, Rose runs away. . . . And inadvertently discovers her secret little sister, Lily. Generations of whispered secrets and family dysfunction surface as Rose struggles to reconcile the home and life she loves with the history she never knew— and to protect Lily at all costs. Even if it means letting Iris into her life. In alternating chapters, previous generations of Lovell women narrate their experiences on the farm, adding depth and context to this powerful story of complex families and unconditional love. Moranville’s captivating prose will keep readers turning the pages as Rose grapples with her changing life and learns the truth about her family— mothers, daughters, and women who weren’t ready to be either.

  2. Pretty - Pretty isn’t everything! Trapped by the limitations of her high-school adjective, the realities of her mother’s alcohol addiction, and a racially fraught America, Sophie’s perspective on what being pretty really means changes drastically in the second adjective-busting novel by the author of Husky, Justin Sayre. Set three months after Husky’sconclusion and narrated by Sophie, Davis’s best friend, Sayre details the private and public life of someone saddled with the adjective of pretty. Confident, stylish, and easygoing at school, Sophie is struggling in her home life. Stepping in to help as her mother’s addiction spirals out of control, Sophie’s aunt teaches the biracial Sophie new lessons about her heritage. While helping to heal the wounds inflicted by alcoholism, Sophie’s renewed sense of self challenges her perception of place in the affluent, “liberal” neighborhood of Park Slope where she lives.a Set against the backgrounds of Brooklyn and Harlem, Sayre challenges readers to confront superficial assumptions about race and beauty and breathes new life into the cannon of middle-grade realistic fiction.

Books About Family Problems and School

Halfway Normal
Written & illustrated by Barbara Dee
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

Twelve-year-old cancer survivor Norah struggles to fit in at middle school after two years of treatment, but she finds her voice with the help of new friend Griffin, who shares her love of mythology.

If This Were a Story
Written by Beth Turley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In the tradition of Crenshaw and The Thing About Jellyfish, ten-year-old Hannah copes with the bullies at school and troubles at home through the power of stories in this sweet and sincere debut. Tenacious. That means strong-willed. My mother calls me that. I wish I felt the same way. If this were a story, I would discover I was a direct descendent of a famous soldier who won countless battles and protected hundreds of people. This resilience running through my veins wouldn’t be damaged by the notes; it would fight off bullies and prevent my parents from yelling at each other. But this is not a story. This is real life. My life as ten-year-old Hannah Geller, who is the only girl in fifth grade to have little red bumps on her face, is unable to let the sad thoughts escape her mind, and leaves heads-up pennies wherever she can to spread good luck. And who also finds magic in the most unlikely of places.

So Done
Written by Paula Chase
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

When best friends Tai and Mila are reunited after a summer apart, their friendship threatens to combust from the pressure of secrets, middle school, and the looming dance auditions for a new talented-and-gifted program.

Fans of Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together will love this memorable story about a complex friendship between two very different African American girls—and the importance of speaking up.

Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers, having grown up across the street from each other in Pirates Cove, a low-income housing project. As summer comes to an end, Tai can’t wait for Mila to return from spending a month with her aunt in the suburbs. But both girls are grappling with secrets, and when Mila returns she’s more focused on her upcoming dance auditions than hanging out with Tai.

Paula Chase explores complex issues that affect many young teens, and So Done offers a powerful message about speaking up. Full of ballet, basketball, family, and daily life in Pirates Cove, this memorable novel is for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Jason Reynolds’s Ghost.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Theodore Boone - Theodore Boone is back on the case in an all-new adventure! Bestselling author John Grisham delivers a page-turning legal thriller for a new generation of readers. Theo has been worried about his good friend Woody Lambert. Woody is struggling at school and making bad choices. But when Woody is arrested—an unwitting accomplice to armed robbery—Theo knows he is innocent. Racing the clock while Woody sits in jail, Theo will do everything in his power to help his friend and save Woody from an unforgiving system where justice is not equal for all. Brimming with the intrigue and suspense that made John Grisham a #1 international bestseller and undisputed master of the modern legal thriller, Theodore Boone’s trials and triumphs will keep readers hooked until the very last page.

  2. A Galaxy of Sea Stars - In this heartfelt middle-grade novel, Izzy’s quiet beach town life is upended when a new friendship with a Muslim girl teaches her about acceptance, respect, and being true to what is right. Izzy is starting sixth grade, and she wants her dad to act like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan. She wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live. Most of all, she wants Piper, Zelda, and herself—the Sea Star Posse—to stay best friends. But everything changes when Izzy’s father invites his former interpreter’s family, including twelve- year-old Sitara, to move in. Izzy doesn’t know what to make of Sitara, with her hijab and refusal to eat cafeteria food, and her presence disrupts the Sea Star Posse. But as Izzy and Sitara grow closer, Izzy must make a choice: stay in her comfort zone and risk betraying her new friend, or speak up and lose the Sea Star Posse forever. A Galaxy of Sea Stars is about family, loyalty, and the hard choices we face in the name of friendship.

  3. 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.

  4. All of the Above - Now with a new cover! A heart-warming, transformational story about a motley group of kids whose lives are changed by a math teacher’s challenge, written by award-winning author Shelley Pearsall with interior illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Javaka Steptoe. James Harris III, Rhondell, Sharice, and Marcel are four inner city students with a quest to build the world’s largest tetrahedron. Weaving together their different personal stories, their teacher, and the community that surrounds them, award winning author Shelley Pearsall has written a vividly engaging story about math, life and good-tasting barbecue. Filled with unexpected humor, poignant characters and quiet brilliance, All of the Above is based on a true story. Bonus content includes a revised authors note with photos, resources, and more!

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