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Books for Young Readers

After Tupac & D Foster - Jacqueline Woodson

The day D Foster enters Neeka and her best friend’s lives, the world opens up for them. Suddenly they’re keenly aware of things beyond their block in Queens, things that are happening in the world—like the shooting of Tupac Shakur—and in search of their Big Purpose in life. When—all too soon—D’s mom swoops in to reclaim her, and Tupac dies, they are left with a sense of how quickly things can change and how even all-too-brief connections can touch deeply.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook - Leslie Connor

"Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth—and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home. When Perry moves to the “outside” world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?"

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart - Vera B. Williams

Williams’ heartwarming story takes readers on the emotional roller-coaster ride that is Amber and Essie’s life. Times are hard for their family-their mother works long hours, leaving them with sitters or cousins or often on their own. Worse yet, their father is in jail. While the girls share their heartache, they also share their special talents-Essie teaches Amber to write her name in script, and Amber convinces the grocer to trust them for milk until payday. The good times are good, but the bad times are really bad. The shadow of their father’s mistake is always there. Williams’ spare and touching verses capture every detail with clarity, humor, and heart. While the text is accessible to children just venturing beyond easy-readers, the story has a great deal of substance for older readers as well. Black-pencil sketches are full of action and as lively as Williams’s poems, and fully capture the joys and sorrows of the girls’ life. Finally, when the story has ended (or perhaps just begun), readers are treated to a full-color album of most of the high points and some of the low points the youngsters experience. A poignant testament to what it means to have a sister.-Jeanne Clancy Watkins, Chester County Library, Exton, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. School Library Journal

Breaking Out; Five-Finger Discount; Monkey See Monkey Do - Barthe DeClements

"A three-book series about Jerry Johnson whose father is in prison, a fact Jerry desperately wishes to keep a secret." Note: Monkey See, Monkey Do can be difficult to locate. You might want to consider asking your local library about interlibrary loans.

The Convicts - Iain Lawrence

After seeing his father hauled off to debtor’s prison, Tom Tin sets out to take revenge on Mr. Goodfellow, the man responsible for his family’s misfortunes. But the fog-filled London streets are teeming with sinister characters. Tom encounters a blind man who scavenges the riverbed for treasure—and wants what Tom digs up; Worms, a body snatcher who reveals a shocking surprise; and a nasty gang of young pickpockets who mistake Tom for someone ominously known as the Smasher. And ultimately, Tom comes up against the cruel hand of the law. Accused of murder, Tom is given a seven-year sentence. He is to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land with other juvenile convicts. But Tom can’t abide life on the Hulk, the old ship where the boys are temporarily held. He decides to escape. But if he’s to succeed, his luck needs to turn. . . .

Do Not Pass Go - Kirkpatrick Hill

Deet’s world turns upside down when his father is arrested for drug use. It doesn’t seem possible that kind, caring Dad could be a criminal! After all, he only took the pills to stay awake so he could work two jobs. Now what will happen? How will Deet be able to face his classmates? Where will they get money? And most importantly, will Dad be okay in prison?

Hurt, angry, and ashamed, Deet doesn’t want to visit his father in jail. But when Mom goes back to work, Deet starts visiting Dad after school. It’s frightening at first, but as he adjusts to the routine, Deet begins to see the prisoners as people with stories of their own, just like his dad. Deet soon realizes that prison isn’t the terrifying place of movies and nightmares. In fact, Dad’s imprisonment leads Deet to make a few surprising discoveries — about his father, his friends, and himself. With moving realism, Kirkpatrick Hill brings to light the tumultuous experience of having a parent in jail in this honest and stirring story of a young man forced to grow up quickly.

Everyone Makes Mistakes: Living With My Daddy In Jail - Madison Strempek

Take a heartwarming journey with 10-year-old author, Madison Strempek, as she candidly depicts her life experience of living with her father in jail. Through her eyes, you will live the heartbreak of her life changing news, discover how she survives with her embarrassing secret, and ultimately finds resolution and strength in understanding everyone makes mistakes. It’s truly a story of perseverance, forgiveness, and love. She skillfully helps the reader maneuver through difficult times by providing opportunities to reflect with blank pages of doodle space, letter writing ideas, and helping the readers find their inner champion. Madison’s personal story is not only valuable for kids living with a parent in jail, but also brings great insight to parents, doctors, social workers, psychologists, judges, lawyers, inmates, law enforcement, friends, and family that support children with incarcerated parents.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington - Janae Marks

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

Graham Cracker Plot - Shelley Tougas

Meet Daisy Bauer and her sometimes best friend, Graham, who are determined to break Daisy’s dad out of prison in this hilarious middle-grade debut. No one believes her, but Daisy Bauer knows her dad has been wrongfully imprisoned and that it’s up to her to break him out of jail (aka Club Fed). She has a plan that she’s calling the Graham Cracker Plot because it was all Graham’s idea. She just needs a miniature horse, a getaway truck, and a penny from 1919—the idea coin. This funny, nail-biter of a novel is about friendship and admitting you’re wrong. Debut novelist Shelley Tougas balances humor and warmth against themes of family, broken trust, and unconditional love against all odds.

Harbor Me - Jacqueline Woodson

"Six kids with very different life experiences narrate Harbor Me, award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson's powerful and timely novel. Through Woodson's characters, young readers will identify with the importance of sharing our stories and helping one another through times of prejudice and fear. Uplifting and hopeful, readers in fourth and fifth grade in particular will appreciate this magnificent novel."

Harry Sue - Sue Stauffacher

Harry Sue Clotkin is tough. Her mom’s in the slammer and she wants to get there too, as fast as possible, so they can be together. But it’s not so easy to become a juvenile delinquent when you’ve got a tender heart. Harry Sue’s got her hands full caring for the crumb-snatchers who take up her afternoons at the day care center, and spending time with her best friend Homer, a quadriplegic who sees life from a skylight in the roof of his tree house. When Harry Sue finds an unlikely confidante in her new art teacher, her ambitions toward a life of crime are sidelined as she comes to a deeper understanding about her past--and future. Sue Stauffacher has once again crafted a fast-paced middle-grade novel filled with quirky but lovable characters, a narrator impossible to ignore, a completely original plot, and a whole lot of redemption.

An Inmate’s Daughter - Jan Walker

Jenna’s mother forbids her to tell her friends that her dad is in prison. Prison reflects on wives and children. Keeping the fact of prison secret becomes more difficult when the newspaper runs a story about Jenna’s “Good Samaritan” rescue at the McNeil Island Corrections Center. She just wants to fit in. As Jenna writes in her journal, children of prisoners are doing time too.

Jailbird Kid - Shirlee Smith Matheson

Angela Wroboski has recently moved with her mother from their small hometown into the city to rid them of a dark past. Now, Angela must deal with the fact that her home will be anything but “normal.” Her dad, the infamous Nick “The Weasel” Wroboski, has served three jail terms for various crimes, including robbery, during her lifetime, and on June 5, Angela’s fifteenth birthday, he’s released from a two-year sentence in Fort Gavin Prison. Arriving home with an attitude and attire that’s sure to mess up her friendships and future, The Weasel tries in his own way to prove that this time he’s going straight. But the influence of the old gang, led by notorious Uncle Al who’s now operating an enigmatic “business” that’s more than a little shady, remains a constant threat to Nick’s future as a family man. When Angela learns that a crime is being planned that could blow apart her family, she must quickly decide how to intervene without breaking her father’s code to “never discuss family business outside the home.”

Jakeman - Deborah Ellis

Jake and his sister Shoshona have been under foster care since their single mother was arrested for possession and trafficking three years before. Both have found their own ways to cope: Shoshona has become a bossy mother figure; Jake, who is a budding comic book artist, has created an alter ego named Jakeman. And unbeknownst to his sister, Jake continues his one-man letter-writing campaign to the Governor, pleading for clemency for their mom. Along with an assortment of nervous, angry, and damaged kids, Jake and Shoshona take a community-provided school bus four times a year on the long overnight journey through New York State to visit their mother in jail. This time will be like no other trip they’ve ever taken. Their adult chaperones contract food poisoning on the way back and must be dropped off at a hospital. And their driver, refusing to wait for another adult to replace their chaperones, sets off again with only the kids and a hidden bottle of booze in tow. In no time they are off the main highway and lost. And their driver, now staggering drunk, abandons the kids and walks off, leaving them in the middle of nowhere. Angry and sick to death of a system that has deserted them at every turn, Shoshana takes the wheel. And through a series of crazy side trips, Jake and the others hatch a plan to visit the Governor’s mother. And when the old lady sees that her son has dismissed Jake’s appeals and refused to even reply, she helps them face off with the Governor himself. Jake and the others find themselves at a photo opportunity that ends in tragedy even as it gives the long-abandoned kids a forum to be heard at long last.

A Kind of Thief - Vivien Alcock

A convincing story of a girl who’s forced to reevaluate her world and those around her. Elinor, 13, is stunned when the police come one morning to arrest her father for embezzlement. While the officers are distracted, her father slips her a luggage claim receipt. Later, when her stepmother asks about it, Elinor tells her she’s destroyed it and secretly retrieves the case herself. She is uneasy over having the overnight bag but refuses to let her younger brother force it open; when they are parcelled out among relatives they barely know, Elinor takes it with her. She learns that her father has not only stolen from strangers but also from the very aunt and cousins who have reluctantly taken her in. Questions of whether she should open the case, to whom the money rightly belongs, and how she can best care for herself and her siblings are deftly handled by this master storyteller. Realistic characters, careful plotting, and the right amount of suspense combine to make A Kind of Thief a real page-turner. A grabber of a cover doesn’t hurt either. --Jo-Anne Weinberg, Greenburgh Pub . Lib . , NY School Library Journal

Nowhere Girl - A.J. Paquette

"Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she's ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she's always dreamed of. Weaving intricate elements of traditional Thailand into a modern-day fairy tale unique unto itself, Nowhere Girl is a beautifully rendered story of courage, resilience, and finding the one place where you truly belong."

One for the Murphys - Lynda Mullaly Hunt

"Be careful who you get close to - you never know how long they’ll be around. That seems to be the new mantra for Carley Connors. Placed in foster care after a domestic abuse incident, the 12-year-old goes to live with the Murphys in Connecticut—in a picture-perfect home complete with three active boys and two caring, attentive foster parents. But while the scenario might seem ideal, the Murphys aren’t anything like what Carley is used to. Their happy suburban existence is a far cry from her life with her single mother in Las Vegas. And Carley just doesn’t seem to fit in - nor, at first, does she want to. Bright, perceptive Carley remains guarded, both at school and at home—trying to fly under the radar to avoid too much scrutiny or criticism. But the warmth of foster mother Julie Murphy chips away at that wall, and by the time her stint in foster care is over, Carley is torn. Her future with her biological mother isn’t exactly clear, but meeting the Murphys has given Carley a better sense of who she is and what a caring family is all about, no matter where she finds it. In One for the Murphys, Lynda Mullaly Hunt convincingly portrays the personality of a questioning tween as she interacts with those around her. This is a life-affirming middle grade novel—perfect for those struggling with similar issues of fitting in or standing out."

Pool Boy - Michael Simmons

Fifteen-year-old Brett Gerson is a real-life S.R.K. (spoiled rich kid)–the guy you love to hate. Yep, Brett’s pretty much got life in the bag–until his dad is jailed for insider trading, and the family money swirls down the drain. Brett wishes things could go back to the way they were–until some dirty swimming pools change everything.

The Same Stuff as Stars - Katherine Paterson

Angel Morgan Needs Help. Her daddy is in jail, and her mother has abandoned Angel and her little brother, Bernie, at their great-grandmother’s crumbling Vermont farmhouse. Grandma, aged and poor, spends most of her time wrapped in a blanket by the wood stove and can’t care for the children. That’s left up to Angel, even though she is not yet twelve. In this dreary world of canned beans and peaches, of adult worries and loneliness, there is only one bright spot - a mysterious stranger who appears on clear nights and teaches Angel all about the stars and planets and constellations. Angel’s quest to carve out a new life for herself and Bernie makes for a powerful, moving story that could arise only from the keen sensitivity, penetrating sense of drama, and honed skill of master storyteller Katherine Paterson.

Secret Saturdays - Torrey Maldonado

Sean is Justin’s best friend - or at least Justin thought he was. But lately Sean has been acting differently. He’s been telling lies, getting into trouble at school, hanging out with a tougher crowd, even getting into fights. When Justin finally discovers that Sean’s been secretly going to visit his father in prison and is dealing with the shame of that, Justin wants to do something to help before his friend spirals further out of control. But will trying to save Sean jeopardize their friendship? Should Justin risk losing his best friend in order to save him?

Standing Against the Wind - Traci L. Jones

"Patrice Williams was happy living in Georgia with her grandmother, then her mother lured her to Chicago and ended up in jail. Living in the projects, Patrice is an easy target for everyone. Not only won't she stand up for herself, she cares about her grades―unlike her classmates. But that draws the attention of Monty Freeman, another eighth grader who asks Patrice to tutor his little brother. When Monty becomes her guardian angel, Patrice begins to think something stronger than friendship might be growing between them. Still, nothing will stop her from applying for a scholarship at prestigious Dogwood Academy―except her mother."

Turn The Next Corner - Gudrun Alcock

When his father is imprisoned, Richie and his mother must move to Chicago’s crowded near-north side. Here Richie makes friends with a disable African American boy whose toughness and perseverance help Richie deal with the new problems in his life.

When Andy’s Father Went to Prison - Martha Whitmore Hickman

A factual yet sensitive picture book about a boy’s father being sent to prison. The black-and-white illustrations of predominately white characters match the detailed story of the sobering event. One feels the quiet sadness Andy experiences in first discovering his father is guilty of a crime, and then the harder task of facing the day-to-day changes this fact has made in his life. His fear of people finding out the truth about his father and his realization that other families have problems also give the book real substance. The wife’s unwavering loyalty, even moving close to the prison in order to visit her husband, encourages the boy’s longing for a happy ending, which happens with the father’s parole. A valuable book because of its unique subject matter. --Iris Roz, Moore Elem . School, Brentwood, PA School Library Journal

Martha Whitmore Hickman A factual yet sensitive picture book about a boy’s father being sent to prison. The black-and-white illustrations of predominately white characters match the detailed story of the sobering event. One feels the quiet sadness Andy experiences in first discovering his father is guilty of a crime, and then the harder task of facing the day-to-day changes this fact has made in his life. His fear of people finding out the truth about his father and his realization that other families have problems also give the book real substance. The wife’s unwavering loyalty, even moving close to the prison in order to visit her husband, encourages the boy’s longing for a happy ending, which happens with the father’s parole. A valuable book because of its unique subject matter. --Iris Roz, Moore Elem . School, Brentwood, PA School Library Journal

Wish - Barbara O’Connor

Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.

The Year the Swallows Came Early - Kathryn Fitzmaurice

“Expect the unexpected.” That’s what Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson’s horoscope says the morning everything begins to change. Suddenly, her father is in jail, her plans to attend culinary school when she grows up fall apart, and it feels like maybe nothing will ever be right again. But the swallows that return to her coastal town every year bring a message of hope with them that even Groovy can’t ignore. Can she forgive the failings of someone she loves in order to bring her family back together again? Kathryn Fitzmaurice’s tender debut novel about food, family, friendship, and forgiveness is as full of promise as the swallows that return home to San Juan Capistrano every spring.

The following books are out of print and/or difficult to find. You might want to consider asking your local library about interlibrary loans.

Someone I Know Lives in Prison - Rebecca Myers

A Summer’s Worth of Shame - Colby Rodowsky

There Are Some Real Special Kids in Our Class; A Visit with Mommy; A Visit with Daddy - Frank Black

Time to Go - Fran Roznowski

We’re always looking for books about children with incarcerated parents. If you come across any, let us know!

We do not condone or promote the books on this page. The list was compiled as we became aware of them.