I taught in public schools for over 15 years, and during that time I became very acquainted with the devastating effects of divorce. There weren’t many picture books on divorce back then; in fact, I can’t think of a single one! That’s why I was so excited when I ran across Fred Stays With Me by Nancy Coffelt. It debuted in 2007 so it’s not exactly fresh off the press, but the subject matter is just as relevant today as it was back then.
In Fred Stays With Me, a precocious little girl is adjusting to life as the daughter of divorced parents. With her backpack full of school items and her overnight bag, she bounces from her dad’s house to her mom’s and back again, with her faithful dog Fred tagging along behind her.
It’s apparent that this little sweetheart is tackling her parent’s divorce with a cheerful and accepting attitude. She has two beds now – a bunk bed in one parent’s house and a single bed in the other, and her meal time is definitely different since one parent is always missing from the table. But she pushes on, determined to make the best of the situation.
Unfortunately, things go sour when Fred won’t behave himself. He barks too much at mom’s house and eats socks like nobody’s business at dad’s. When each parent grumbles that Fred has to go, the little girl’s previous “this is just the way things are” attitude flies right out the window. Fred is the only constant in her life; the only thing that has remained the same since the divorce, and she’s not about to let her parents take that from her too!
Fred Stays With Me is a delightfully touching book on a very important subject. Illustrator Tricia Tusa uses simple pictures with soft, child-friendly colors and scenarios to “show” what divorce looks and feels like to children. For example, there are no adult faces in the book, only arms leading the little girl this way and that between houses. There are also many pictures where the girl spends quiet time with her faithful dog, away from the glaring reality of divorce. But I don’t want you to think Tusa’s illustrations are sad or disturbing. On the contrary, each page shows a hopeful and smiling MC and her roly poly BFF Fred along for the adventure.
This is a lovely book about a not-so-lovely subject, and I believe parents going through a divorce or any similar type of separation will find this book a wonderful way to help their children cope with their new circumstances. I think this book would do well in multiple locations; a therapist’s or social worker’s office, a church library, and most definitely an elementary classroom or school library. But more importantly, it’s the perfect book to add to your child’s personal library, especially if your family or a family you know is going through the same ordeal.
Best wishes and happy reading,