Blogger Early Childhood Programs and Services committee

Incarcerated Loved Ones: Picture Books 

We often think of divorce or military service as events that might contribute to families being apart, but family separation due to imprisonment is also a reality for some of the families we serve. According to recent data from the Prison Policy Initiative, almost half of the over 1 million individuals in our prisons are parents to minors and nearly 20% of those minors are under the age of 4. Although a higher proportion of parents in prison are fathers, the imprisonment of mothers has been steadily increasing. Vera, a prisoner advocacy organization, explains that (due to institutional racism and bias) the parents of children of color and children experiencing poverty are more likely to have their behavior criminalized, resulting in harsher charges, and longer sentences than their peers.

We obviously don’t know our patron’s personal stories, but given these statistics we should assume that all of us at any given time are serving children with loved ones in prison. In striving to maintain children’s collections that represent the varied experiences of the children and families we serve, the following selection of picture books still in print about incarcerated loved ones and the impact this has on children may be a useful starting point. Feel free to reply to this post with any other titles that could be helpful on this topic.

Far Apart, Close in Heart written by Becky Birtha and illustrated by Maja Kastelic (Albert Whitman and Co., 2017)

Hazelnut Days by Emmanuel Bourdieau and illustrated by Zau (Astra, 2018)

Knock Knock written by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier (Hachette, 2013)

Milo Imagines the World written by Matt de la Peña and Illustrated by Christian Robinson (Putnam/Penguin, 2021)

Missing Daddy by Mariame Kaba and illustrated by bria royal (Haymarket, 2018)

My Brother is Away written by Sara Greenwood and illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Penguin Random House, 2022)

Visiting Day written by Jacquelien Woodson and illustrated by James E. Ransome (Penguin Random House, 2002)

Today’s blog post was written by Nomi Hague (she/her), a Youth Services Librarian at the Cranston Public Library in Cranston, Rhode Island. Nomi is a member of the ALSC Early Childhood Programs & Services Committee and can be reached at

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