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Cover image for Far apart, close in heart : being a family when a loved one is incarcerated
Far apart, close in heart : being a family when a loved one is incarcerated
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
AD 560 L Lexile
Added Author:
Children who have a parent in prison express their feelings of sadness, anger, worry, and embarrassment and suggest that talking to others and keeping in contact with the missing parent helps them deal with the situation.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book EASY BIR 1 2
Book EASY BIR 1 1
Book EASY BIR 1 1
Book EASY BIR 1 1
Book EASY BIR 1 3

On Order



Children can experience many emotions when a parent is in jail or prison. They may be angry, sad, lonely, or scared. Sometimes friends act differently toward them. Sometimes the children begin acting differently too. In this important book, young readers will learn that even when it feels like nothing can get better again, there are ways they can improve their circumstances. Sending letters, talking to a trusted grown-up about their feelings, and even visiting a parent in jail or prison can help keep a parent close in their hearts. Use this title as a helpful tool to start a conversation with any child in this situation and to remind them they are not alone.

Author Notes

Becky Birtha is the author of Grandmama's Pride and Lucky Beans , which also express her advocacy for social justice. She has degrees in children's studies and creative writing. She lives in Pennsylvania with her partner and their two young adult children. Maja Kastelic studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. Before starting her career in illustration, she worked as a retouching artist restoring frescoes. She lives in Slovenia.

Reviews 3

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 3-How can a family stay intact if a parent is incarcerated? This tale follows children as they deal with bullying, isolation, fear, guilt, and uncertainty. In one scene, Xavier has his face down and is worried because he needs to keep his father's incarceration a secret while he is surrounded by happy children playing outside. Later on, Xavier is able to talk to his father on the phone and stay connected-where "he doesn't have to keep secrets from his dad." The multiple story lines show the breadth of emotions a child may feel, as when Raphael is still angry and continues to avoid talking to his mom on the phone. This important picture book functions as a guide for children to understand their emotions about an incarcerated parent, but it also works as a way for a caregiver to support the child. The line drawings, in vignettes, have a soft palette and focus on the emotions of the children. The book ends with a note to caregivers, further resources, and tips to help adults be open and understanding. VERDICT A highly recommended title that serves as an excellent entry to discuss incarceration in an age-appropriate way or as a tool for children as they work through their complicated feelings.-Karen Ginman, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

The subtitle of this picture book says it all.A racially and ethnically diverse sampling of children exemplify the grief and discomfort that come with losing a parent to incarceration. Lacey's scared with one of her moms in jail; Rashid's mom is in jail for the second time; both Juana's mami and her papi are in prison, so she and her siblings are spread out among foster homes. Yen has hard questions only her mother can answer, so she mails them to her. Rafael must fend off intrusive questions from the other kids. In Birtha's direct, sympathetic text and Kastelic's muted pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, these children and more evince loneliness, anger, shame, and fear. Birtha gives them sympathetic adults, such as a coach who won't let Jermaine's teammates mock him and the teacher who listens to Atian, who's been acting out. Tips on talking to children with incarcerated parents and further resources are included in the backmatter; these, combined with the direct, role-modeling text, make this book as valuable for adult readers as it is for children. The purposeful inclusion of a white child and an Asian-American child helps to dispel stereotypes, while the inclusion of African-American and Latino children reflects U.S. prison demographics. Class disparities are only hinted at; the children are not obviously well-to-do but all seem to inhabit reasonably comfortable settings. With more than 2.7 million American children experiencing the incarceration of a parent, this book is a necessary one. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Having a parent in prison is a complicated matter, but Birtha's book more bibliotherapeutic than literary thoughtfully tackles this topic. It clearly and gently explains to the reader, presumably a child with one or more incarcerated parents, a range of possible scenarios about how it feels. Drawing on her own experience, Birtha gilds the text with tenderness and affirmation so that all responses are rendered valid. Rashid is angry with is mother for breaking the law (and her promise not to). Juana misses her siblings, scattered among different families when both parents are arrested. Yen has so many questions and no way to ask. In addition to the children's feelings, we learn about the ways adults treat children with incarcerated parents: some with judgment, and others with kindness and friendship. The book ends with sage advice: talk to a trusted adult. Don't bottle anything up inside. Back matter includes strategies for adults about how to talk to children. Jacqueline Woodson's Visiting Day (2002) makes a nice fictional pairing for this book.--Chaudhri, Amina Copyright 2010 Booklist

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