Skip to main content

Books for Children and Young Adults Impacted by Incarceration

April 16, 2014
A list of books for children and young adults impacted by incarceration.

Books for children:

Al Capone Does My Shirtsal capone does my shirts - book cover image 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 Smartamber was brave, essie was smart - book cover image 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 Awaymama loves me from away - book cover image 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 Awayned mouse - book cover image 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 Familyin my family - book cover image (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 Dayvisiting day by Jacqueline Woodson

A young girl looks forward to her monthly visits with her incarcerated father. Grade 2+.



The Year the Swallows Came Earlythe year the swallows came early - book cover image 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 Sueharry sue - book cover image 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 Lifehole in my life - book cover image 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+.




Lockdownlockdown - book cover image 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.

Related Posts
June 14, 2021

10 Crime Coverage Dos and Don'ts

The Sentencing Project’s new media guide can help media outlets develop coverage that will better inform the public and policymakers on how to pursue the most effective and humane public safety policies.
June 04, 2021

WEBINAR: A Second Look at Injustice

Activists and criminal justice leaders discuss the latest research and advocacy around second look reforms.