Few books handle blended families from a young child's point of view with such honest feeling as When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. Because the main character is a coyote pup, children can experience his emotions from a safe distance.
The desert setting allows for sizzling vocabulary words such as jalapeño flapjacks, prickly pear pudding, and playing "Zig-the-Zag" across the sand. Even though Cardell's parents are divorced, we see that he maintains a close relationship with each of them, including his father's new wife and their pup.
Yet Cardell is protective of his mother (with good reason, by his recollections of her former dates). Readers see right away that Cardell's new neighbor, Otis, is different from his mother's former callers. Otis is kind and gentle, courting both Mama and Cardell in his way, and he gives Cardell time and space to warm up to the idea of Mama and Otis dating. The picture book offers hope to children attempting to make sense of unfamiliar family arrangements and also to the idea of "sharing" a parent with someone else.
Two other recent titles about separated parents include Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend, written and illustrated by Karen Stanton, and for slightly older readers, Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Lisa Brown, offers a more complex emotional response to parents separating.