The best books about foster care

11 authors have picked their favorite books about foster care and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

The Great Gilly Hopkins

By Katherine Paterson,

Book cover of The Great Gilly Hopkins

Being raised in foster care is tough. But Gilly Hopkins is tougher by far. Known to be completely unmanageable, brash, and bitter, Gilly has been shuttled from one family to the next. When she is sent to stay with the Trotters, she knows it won’t be for long. She can outlast them! She can outlast anyone! But the Trotters aren’t that easily thrown. So even with her angry blow-ups, her gum-chewing scowls, and her every attempt to get herself sent away once again, Gilly might have finally met her match. For girls who are having tough times, tough Gilly is an excellent protagonist who can model the benefits of learning to control your anger and finding alternative ways to express your frustration while keeping true to yourself. 


Who am I?

My mother was one of the first women to do labor negotiations in the Steel Industry. My sisters and I were raised to believe we could do anything. I have one sister who does executive coaching, another who is a pilot, and I am a writer. I also have two girls of my own. One is an EMT and the other is getting her doctorate in Special Ed. They are both giving but strong-minded. I am proud of them both. I believe strongly that girls need role models in life to understand that with grit and hard work, they can make a world in which their dreams can be realized.


I wrote...

The Root of Magic

By Kathleen Benner Duble,

Book cover of The Root of Magic

What is my book about?

Willow’s life is anything but magical. Her brother, Wisp, is ill. Her parents’ arguments over Wisp’s treatments have escalated to the point where they have separated. And Willow has been the one left to pick up the pieces. But when a car accident lands Willow in the tiny town of Kismet, Maine, she finds her life taking an unexpected turn. The town is oddly isolated, and the longer Willow stays, the more she begins to see really strange things happening all around her. 

Slowly, Willow begins to unravel the secret to Kismet—There is magic in this town! Can that magic save Willow’s sick brother and distant parents?  Read The Root of Magic to find out!

One for the Murphys

By Lynda Mullaly Hunt,

Book cover of One for the Murphys

Lynda Mallaly Hunt is one of my favorite Middle-Grade authors. She is a fantastic storyteller. She creates authentic and relatable characters, and I would recommend all of her books, but One for the Murphys is the one that best fits the theme of this list. I connected deeply with Carely’s struggles with missing her mom but feeling betrayed by her and mistrusting the seeming perfection of her foster family and yet desperately wanting to belong in their world. This book is a powerful look at what it means to be a family of any kind. 


Who am I?

An act of kindness from a stranger when you’re having a bad day can totally change your mindset, it can even change your life. I believe there are few things more important than trust, friendship, and making genuine human connections. Those are some of the main themes of my novel Which Way is Home? and themes that appear in each of the books on my list. You never know when someone is going to come into your life and change it for the better. I always want to be open to those experiences in my life and reflect them in my writing. Reading these books has only reinforced that desire.


I wrote...

Which Way Is Home?

By Maria Kiely,

Book cover of Which Way Is Home?

What is my book about?

Anna’s father disappeared months ago. He had to flee the country because the cruel new Communist government wanted to arrest him. The Communists may have arrived like heroes at the end of World War II, saving Czechoslovakia from the Nazis–but since then, things have changed. Now Anna’s whole family feels threatened and doesn’t know whom to trust, so she and her mother and sister set out to escape, hoping to reunite with Papa. During their dangerous journey, they have to hide from the authorities and navigate through the wilderness, constantly relying on people they’ve never met for help. They have no way to contact Papa and they’re running out of options, so putting their lives in the hands of strangers might be their only hope of seeing him again.

The Unforgettable Logan Foster #1

By Shawn Peters,

Book cover of The Unforgettable Logan Foster #1

Logan Foster is a character who will stick with you. His story is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that belongs in the halls of great comic-book-level adventure. And it is also an emotional journey for young Logan, who is seeking a family, wondering about his lost sibling, and looking to find a place in the world. His world just happens to be extraordinary in many action-packed ways. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and, yes, sometimes dad-joke groan-worthy too. Because of its combination of excitement and heart, this book has earned a well-deserved spot on this list.


Who am I?

I love to read a good action-adventure story. I’ve also written a few. And I know that no matter how high the stakes, if there’s no heart in the characters then there’s very little engagement to make it any more memorable than a temporary thrill. I love thrills, but the stories that stick with you after the excitement of the moment is over, those are the true gems. Besides the fun of reading that type of book, maybe you even learn something about yourself or the world and come out a wee bit wiser than when you went in. And isn’t that a fantastic use of our imaginative powers?!


I wrote...

The Eye of Ra

By Ben Gartner,

Book cover of The Eye of Ra

What is my book about?

Exploring a mysterious cave in the mountains behind their house, John and his sister Sarah are shocked to discover they’ve time traveled to ancient Egypt!

Now they must work together to find a way back home from an ancient civilization of golden desert sand and a towering new pyramid, without parents to save them. The adventures abound—cobras, scorpions, a tomb robber, and more! The two kids have to trust each other, make friends who can help, and survive the challenges thrown at them . . . or be stuck in ancient Egypt forever.

Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me

By Julie Johnston,

Book cover of Adam and Eve and Pinch-Me

A fictional story of Sara who is placed in foster home after foster home until she ends up with a farm family, The Huddlestons. I could feel Sara’s pain as she is rejected time after time, and feels she belongs nowhere and has no one to care for her. But I believe in hope and will not ever leave a book I have written without hope and this book did that for me. It is a touching novel of love and the meaning of family. 


Who am I?

I am a Canadian middle-grade, YA author, who's always on the lookout for a new story. I have walked into trees while watching an event unfold on a street, sat in coffee shops shamelessly listening to other people's conversations, and talked to strangers to hear their stories. In 2000 I was walking in downtown London and saw a teenage boy sitting on a bench with a hat in front of him collecting money. He became my Dylan. In front of a church in London was a pregnant girl, also collecting money. She became my Amber. I contacted youth services and researched everything I could to find out information on homeless youth. It was quite a journey.


I wrote...

Theories of Relativity

By Barbara Haworth-Attard,

Book cover of Theories of Relativity

What is my book about?

Thrown out of his house by his mother, sixteen-year-old Dylan is living on the streets, trying to find his place in a dark, painful and complicated world of drugs, violence, and sex trafficking. An unflinching look at homeless youth and their struggles.

Theories of Relativity was a 2003 finalist for the Governor-General’s Award, Canada.

Orbiting Jupiter

By Gary D. Schmidt,

Book cover of Orbiting Jupiter

This young adult novel is a love song from a teenage father to the child he’s never met. He yearns toward her. He wrestles with the consequences of his past decisions. He wants a future that he can never have. I can’t tell you how much I saw myself, a middle-aged mom, in delinquent protagonist Jack. This book is real and visceral and doesn’t pull any punches, but the most important thing it does is remind us that the twin of grief is love. 


Who am I?

When I sold the manuscript that became The Way Back from Broken, my editor asked why I wrote it. I said, “I wrote a book about the two things I’m an expert in: grief and canoeing.” It took me ten years to find my own way back from being broken after the death of my daughter. Along that difficult and heartbreaking trail, I came to loathe people who said things like “Time heals all wounds” or “It was meant to be.” I craved those brave few who spoke and wrote with deep authenticity about how grief and loss force us to reconsider everything we’ve ever known about the world. 


I wrote...

The Way Back from Broken

By Amber J. Keyser,

Book cover of The Way Back from Broken

What is my book about?

Rakmen’s baby sister died in his arms, his parents are on the verge of divorce, and he’s flunking out of high school. The only place he fits is at Promise House, otherwise known as support group central. Not that he wants to be there. Talking doesn’t bring back the dead. When he’s shipped off to the Canadian wilderness with ten-year-old Jacey, another member of the support group, and her mom, his summer goes from bad to worse. He can’t imagine how eight weeks of canoeing and camping could be anything but awful. Yet the vast and unforgiving backcountry just might give Rakmen a chance to find the way back from broken... if he’s brave enough to grab it. 

We Can Talk About It

By Whitney Bunker, Jena Holliday (illustrator),

Book cover of We Can Talk About It: A Conversation Starter for Foster and Adoptive Families

As a therapist, longtime foster/adoption advocate, and fost/adopt mama, I’m always looking for books that help adults have healthy, child-driven conversations with kids. More than most, kids in foster care and adoptive placements need safe spaces to feel their feelings, navigate life changes, and experience caring adults. Debut author Whitney Bunker brings her personal experiences as a foster/adoptive mama and Executive Director / Co-Founder of City Without Orphans to do just that. We Can Talk About It shows kids that the healthy, supportive adults in their lives are safe places for the questions that will come, while simultaneously modeling for adults how to be that safe place. This book is just one of many beautiful ways Bunker and her organization seek to serve hurting but hopeful families.


Who am I?

As a birth, foster, adoptive, and pseudo mom to many children, I know firsthand how hard it is to find quality literature that reflects their experience and gives them skills for their own life journey. As a therapist, certified in trauma and resilience, having spent many years in social services, I also see the lack of resources available to caregivers, teachers, and counselors. It's my passion to help remove shame, build resilience, and reclaim hope in the lives of each member of these families. I’ve done this through a TEDx talk on the power of story on the brain, authored multiple books, speak regularly, offer trainings, and private parent coaching.


I wrote...

Speranza's Sweater: A Child's Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption

By Marcy Pusey,

Book cover of Speranza's Sweater: A Child's Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption

What is my book about?

Kids deserve a safe place to live and grow and learn. For some kids, this means living with foster or adoptive parents. Speranza wears her sweater everywhere, hanging onto the last memories of her birth home until it’s threadbare. Like her unraveled sweater, Speranza must weave together a new story, bringing threads from her past and strands from her present, into a future of love, family, and the true meaning of home.

This heart-warming story provides hope and support for the many mixed emotions a child will experience during their foster and adoption journey, through the unraveling and re-weaving of a favorite sweater. Speranza’s Sweater includes a dictionary of words to empower children and their carers by understanding the language used around them.

Love You From Right Here

By Jamie Sandefer, Pamela Goodman (illustrator),

Book cover of Love You From Right Here

Sandefer, a foster mama herself, wanted to give other foster parents words of comfort to give to their own hurting foster children. Love You From Right Here does just that. Kids in foster care have had so many choices taken from them. I love how this book gives some back. Sandefer has created a place where children can see another child’s agency protected and cared for, where the adult invites (instead of forces) and the child responds when he or she is ready. Sandefer’s story does a beautiful job of illustrating that trust and safety aren’t to be rushed, but developed through patience, kindness, and empathy. Kids and adults need this book.


Who am I?

As a birth, foster, adoptive, and pseudo mom to many children, I know firsthand how hard it is to find quality literature that reflects their experience and gives them skills for their own life journey. As a therapist, certified in trauma and resilience, having spent many years in social services, I also see the lack of resources available to caregivers, teachers, and counselors. It's my passion to help remove shame, build resilience, and reclaim hope in the lives of each member of these families. I’ve done this through a TEDx talk on the power of story on the brain, authored multiple books, speak regularly, offer trainings, and private parent coaching.


I wrote...

Speranza's Sweater: A Child's Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption

By Marcy Pusey,

Book cover of Speranza's Sweater: A Child's Journey Through Foster Care and Adoption

What is my book about?

Kids deserve a safe place to live and grow and learn. For some kids, this means living with foster or adoptive parents. Speranza wears her sweater everywhere, hanging onto the last memories of her birth home until it’s threadbare. Like her unraveled sweater, Speranza must weave together a new story, bringing threads from her past and strands from her present, into a future of love, family, and the true meaning of home.

This heart-warming story provides hope and support for the many mixed emotions a child will experience during their foster and adoption journey, through the unraveling and re-weaving of a favorite sweater. Speranza’s Sweater includes a dictionary of words to empower children and their carers by understanding the language used around them.

Just Lucky

By Melanie Florence,

Book cover of Just Lucky

Author Melanie Florence draws together many contemporary issues faced by Indigenous kids in this gripping and sometimes harrowing novel about Lucky, a young girl thrown into the foster care system after losing her caregiver grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease. Lucky is of Cree ancestry, and the author is of mixed Cree and Scottish heritage. It’s a fast-paced and easy-to-read novel that will entertain and uplift, while it remains unflinching in its depiction of the realities faced by kids in foster care.


Who am I?

Having grown up on S.E. Hinton, I love a good, gritty young adult novel that doesn’t pull any punches! In my book, Black Chuck, four misfit teens suddenly find themselves cast adrift after the very charismatic Shaun dies, leaving them to navigate their way to adulthood without their leader. All the books on this list are coming-of-age stories about kids growing up in tough circumstances, finding love, making mistakes, getting hurt, and ultimately finding joy in a world that at times seems set against them.


I wrote...

Black Chuck

By Regan McDonell,

Book cover of Black Chuck

What is my book about?

In this dark, gritty coming-of-age novel about small-town kids from the wrong side of the tracks, tough guy Réal and quiet loner Evie find strange comfort in each other in the aftermath of their closest friend’s death. 

Shaun was the king, the lynchpin that kept their small, close-knit group of friends together. He was the sun they’d all spun around. And in the days after his sudden, violent death, Réal looks to Evie to atone for his sins, and Evie looks to Ré to forget about her own. But each of them is keeping a secret—about Shaun, and the night he died—secrets that might just tear these friends apart forever.

The Sand Dancer

By Lydia Emma Niebuhr,

Book cover of The Sand Dancer

I found the novel The Sand Dancer a compelling mystery. I felt sorry for Carrie, the main character, who lost her parents when she was two years old. As I read about Carrie’s troubling life, bouncing from one foster family to another until she turned eighteen, I wanted her to find some answers to her past to have that closure and move on with her future. The suspense in this story is quite a page-turner. She showed that she was a strong woman and quick thinker.


Who am I?

I have a B.S. degree in Medical Technology and connect my stories with science. The more I began researching problematic issues in our society for the subject matter of my trilogy, the more I began to empathize with the different kinds of suffering that people endure. I’ve incorporated traumas in all of my Euphoria trilogy stories, from illicit drugs, illnesses, loss, burns, skin regeneration, and human trafficking. Societal awareness is my passion; presenting issues to people who don’t realize these problems are as widespread as they actually are. 


I wrote...

Saving Euphoria

By C. Becker,

Book cover of Saving Euphoria

What is my book about?

Mark Langley risked everything to protect his family. He was assaulted and burnt as his assailants tried to force information from him. Now his family believes he’s dead. As Mark recovers from his burns and PTSD, he must stay in the shadows and wait for the man behind the assault to return to the U.S.—even at the risk of losing his wife to another man.

Hailey Langley cannot accept her husband Mark is dead, but her children are grieving and she must bury her own needs to focus on maintaining some semblance of normalcy for her son and daughter.

A Family Is a Family Is a Family

By Sara O’Leary, Qin Leng (illustrator),

Book cover of A Family Is a Family Is a Family

Many kids secretly fear the questions that come up at the beginning of the school year about their family. If you are living in foster care or have been going through something difficult in your home life, talking about family can be challenging. This playfully illustrated story helps create a safe space for all different kinds of families. Great for reading at home with your child or with the whole class to nurture a welcoming environment.


Who am I?

My super-power is making brain science accessible and entertaining for children and adults alike. I am living this out as an author, mental health counselor, and the founder of BraveBrains. In addition to training parents and professionals, I have the joy of sharing my passion and expertise through podcast appearances, blogs, and articles. The lightbulb moments are my favorite, and I'm committed to helping people bring what they learn back home in practical ways. I write picture books because the magic of reading and re-reading stories light up the brain in a powerful way. But don’t worry…I always include some goodies for the adults in the back of the book.


I wrote...

Riley the Brave Makes It to School: A Story with Tips and Tricks for Tough Transitions

By Jessica Sinarski, Zachary Kline (illustrator),

Book cover of Riley the Brave Makes It to School: A Story with Tips and Tricks for Tough Transitions

What is my book about?

Making it to school is tough at the best of times! Riley Bear and his elephant parents share a peek into a grumpy morning. When big feelings threaten to ruin the day, this brightly illustrated story will help families find their way through. 

The educational afterword features tips and tricks for tough transitions, a treasure trove for parents, teachers, and other caring adults.

Or, view all 25 books about foster care

New book lists related to foster care

All book lists related to foster care

Bookshelves related to foster care