Books for children:
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
In 1935, 12-year-old Moose and his family move to Alcatraz Island, where his father gets a job in the prison. Grades 6-8.
Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart by Vera B. Williams
Told through poetry and drawings, two sisters survive a time of poverty and longing as Mama works so hard and Daddy is in prison. Grade 2+.
Mama Loves Me From Away by Pat Brisson
Sharing the same birthday and their love of stories, Sugar visits Mama in prison and receives a notebook of stories drawn by Mama. Grade 2+.
Ned Mouse Breaks Away by Tim Wynne-Jones
This light-hearted story covers the serious topic of unjust incarceration and is illustrated with cartoon drawings. Grade 3+.
Sesame Street’s In My Family (pdf) by Rebecca Honig-Briggs
Sad and angry, a young Muppet attends Family Night with Uncle George, misses her daddy who is in prison, and learns her family loves her. See also Sesame Street’s Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration guide (pdf). Grades K-2.
Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson
A young girl looks forward to her monthly visits with her incarcerated father. Grade 2+.
The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
After watching her father go to jail, Eleanor “Groovy” Robinson struggles to come to terms with his crime and learns about the importance of forgiveness. Grades 4-7.
Books for young adults:
Harry Sue by Sue Stauffacher
11-year-old Harry Sue’s parents have both been convicted of felonies, and her mother is currently in prison. Grades 6-8.
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
In this honest memoir, the award-winning children’s author relates his experience smuggling drugs and the 15 months he spent in federal prison as a young man. Grade 8+.
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
In juvenile detention, 14-year-old Reese is given a chance at a work program at a senior home. Grade 8+.
See also: Top Book Choices for Teens in Detention by the School Library Journal.
Compiled by Nancy Davis.