Five Finds – Poverty in Picture Books


According to the most recent Canadian census, 1.2 million Canadian children live in low-income families, representing 17% of the Canadian population. That’s an awful lot of children potentially experiencing food or shelter insecurity. Poverty is a tough topic that reflects the realities of millions of children across North America and the world, and these five picture books tackle the subject of poverty, homelessness and parental job loss in different ways.

A Chair for My Mother

Many families become homeless or experience severe shelter insecurity due to a sudden, often tragic incident, such as a natural disaster, fire, or other major event. This can be an extremely traumatic experience for a young child. This classic picture book tells the story of a family who has lost their home and all their possessions to a fire, but haven’t lost each other. Rosa, her mother and her grandmother carefully scrimp and save to buy a big, comfy chair so their mother can rest after the hard work she puts in to support the family. A respectful, positive yet realistic look at the life of a family struggling to make ends meet.

Fly Away Home

Homelessness can take many forms, and there are thousands of working poor families in which parents and caregivers work one or more jobs but still can’t afford a place to live. In this heartbreaking story a father and his young child make their home in an airport while the father tries to find work that will support them. Like so many parents, the father in Fly Away Home wants to give his son the very best start in life, despite the challenges and setbacks that have been thrown in their path. A beautiful reminder to never make assumptions or judgements of families living in different and difficult situations.

A Shelter in Our Car

Zettie and her mother immigrated from Jamaica after her father’s death in search of a better life. But Zettie’s mother hasn’t been able to get a stable job, and the two have no choice but to live in their car. A Shelter in Our Car is a gentle reminder that there are families in our communities who are struggling just to make ends meet, and that homeless people include our classmates, our coworkers, our neighbours and other people in our neighbourhoods.

Still a Family

A little girl lives with her mother in a shelter, while her father lives in another. Life isn’t perfect, and there are many aspects of this living arrangement that the girl wishes she could change, but in the end she loves both her parents, and they love her. I have a full review of Still a Family here.

Tight Times

A young boy longs for a dog, but when his father loses his job, money gets tighter and tighter, and a pet isn’t the only thing he can’t have. This older picture book reflects the confusion and frustration that young children can experience when their family’s financial situations deteriorate, and honestly depicts the stress and strain that caregivers in these situations are often under.

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