Motherwell’s favorite books on life as a blended family

mosaic of book covers

By Olivia Watson

Though we can’t predict what 2021 will bring, we can expect transition. For many families, this transition will mean navigating life as a blended family and the challenges—and gifts—that come along with uniting children, traditions, and parenting styles into a new household.

We’ve selected ten of our favorite books about blended families to help every member—from stepparents to step-siblings to ex-spouses—cope with their new dynamics and find middle ground in their new configuration.

For adults:

Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages and Becoming Stepfamily Smart
By Gary Chapman and Ron L. Deal

This 2020 guide by renowned marriage counselor and inventor of the love language concept, Dr. Gary Chapman, and licensed family therapist, Ron L. Deal, is an incredible resource for parents and stepparents. Both experts offer strategies on how to establish boundaries, build trust, and apply the love languages in a new context in order to “blend well and love well.” A must-read for parents looking for a practical road map forward!

By Ann Patchett

In her seventh and latest novel, Patchett dives into familial complexity when an affair between two characters ends both marriages and leads them to combine families. The story is further complicated when a famous author turns their intimate family experience into a bestselling book. A powerful look at how family members cope with this transition differently, especially when the narrative is in someone else’s hands.

Blissfully Blended Bullshit: The Uncomfortable Truth of Blending Families
By Rebecca Eckler

Eckler’s funny, outspoken memoir reveals her experience uniting her partner’s two kids and her daughter in one home – before adding another child to the mix! Eckler is honest about the challenges her family faces in their journey to find harmony and happiness, and in doing so, gives her readers permission to do the same.

The Co-Parenting Handbook: Raising Well-Adjusted and Resilient Kids from Little Ones to Young Adults through Divorce or Separation
By Karen Bonnell and Kristin Little

Karen Bonnell and Kristin Little, both experienced co-parenting coaches, form the perfect team to guide recently divorced or separated couples on their co-parenting journey. Both women provide useful strategies to help parents collaborate effectively and prioritize their children’s needs, rather than their own conflicts. A reassuring, non-judgmental resource for all families experiencing this change.

The Adults
By Caroline Hulse

Claire and Matt are no longer married, but they decide to celebrate Christmas as a family for their daughter’s sake. A divorced couple, their new partners, and a daughter stuck between it all – what could possibly go wrong? A compelling story of family and the loving, flawed people at its center that begins with a frantic emergency call.

For kids:

The Ring Bearer
By Floyd Cooper
Age: 3-7 years

One of the best ways to help children navigate complicated family change is to show them that they’re not alone. In Cooper’s endearing picture book, Jackson asks himself what it will be like to have a new dad or to share his things with a new sister. This book serves as an essential reminder to kids that it is normal to have questions and feel nervous about remarriage.

Step One, Step Two, Step Three and Four
By Maria Ashworth
Age: 4-8 years

The young protagonist of Ashworth’s book is adamant that her mom should not remarry because she does not want step-siblings. This book understands the anger and grief that children often experience when parents remarry and validates such feelings. A powerful book for children about coming to terms with new family and finding joy in change.

Not If I Can Help It
By Carolyn Mackler
Age: 8-12 years

Willa is an eleven-year-old with Sensory Processing Disorder, meaning she has an aversion to things that trigger her senses – like slimy food or itchy socks. A unique voice for young readers, Willa navigates her parents’ separation, her own disability, and the strange possibility of becoming sisters with her best friend. A thoughtful read for everyone, but especially young people.

By Sharon M. Draper
Age: 8-12 years

In Draper’s moving novel, eleven-year-old Isabella is thrust into the middle of her parent’s conflict as she moves between their houses each week. Amidst their fighting, Isabella confronts deep questions of racial identity as her father is Black and her mother is white. A nuanced coming-of-age story that tackles divorce, race and racism, and belonging with authenticity – perfect for any child who feels stuck in the middle.

We Are All Made of Molecules
By Susin Nielsen
Age: 12-17 years

Nielsen’s novel offers a window into the lives of two teenagers who abruptly become siblings when their parents move in together. Though they are close in age, they couldn’t be more different. Stewart is socially awkward yet strong academically, while Ashley is a popular but struggling student. For children and step-siblings navigating new relationships and the inevitable conflict that comes with them, this book is at once genuine and encouraging.

Olivia Watson is an avid reader and the creator of Lib’s Library, a bookstagram account that emphasizes intersectionality and challenges dominant narratives.

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