Books about growing up without a mom
January 1, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for novels for my little cousin about growing up without a mother.

My cousin lost her mother at a very young age. Now that she's 11, she's interested in books where a main character grows up without a mother figure. She reads at about a 15-year-old's level, and enjoys reading a great deal

Growing up without a mother doesn't have to be the main focus, but it should be a prominent part of the book, if possible,

Thank you!
posted by Verdandi to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Harry Potter
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:57 AM on January 1, 2010

Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking. Most of Roald Dahl is parent-free. Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang (although replacing the mother-figure is a central part of the story). And the very best lost-mother, girl-protagonist book of all is The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip.
posted by headnsouth at 8:02 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might try A Little Princess, Pollyanna or Pippi Longstocking. This list also has some good ideas.
posted by rebekah at 8:04 AM on January 1, 2010

The very first thing that came to my mind after reading your question was Disney Movies. There's rarely two parents, and most are being raised by their fathers. I know it doesn't answer your question directly, but it may provide a jumping off point for others.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:05 AM on January 1, 2010

The Secret Garden is good reading, as is the Anne of Green Gables series. Really good movies have also been made from the books.
posted by srbrunson at 8:05 AM on January 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Judy Blume would be great for this age group and one focused on this. IIRC it was a violent death for the mom? I believe it was Tiger Eyes but may have been Deenie.
posted by mazienh at 8:06 AM on January 1, 2010

Any of the examples in the 'Missing Mom' page at TvTropes
posted by Memo at 8:12 AM on January 1, 2010

Little Women (Laurie) and Little Men (the boys at Plumfield)
posted by jgirl at 8:17 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events), by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler). 1 of 13 very well written novels about parentless children dealing with the adult world.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:22 AM on January 1, 2010

I loved the Emily books by Lucy Maude Montgomery - in my opinion way better than the Anne of Green Gables books plus there's only 3 in the set - Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily's Quest.
posted by scrute at 8:22 AM on January 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

My personal most-beloved author of all time (and I'm in my late 20's) is Robin McKinley, who, as she put it, writes stories about "girls who do things." In addition to inventing worlds of her own, she has also rewritten a number of traditional fairy/folk tales, which often feature young women growing up without mothers. But my two favorites are a pair of her original stories, The Blue Sword and its prequel The Hero and the Crown (probably my bestest favorite). I read them as a 13-year-old and they were significant, formative events of my youth. Both main characters grew up without their mother, and I was deeply affected by the coming-of-age stories and the emphasis on loyalty and honor. Seriously, seriously, great books. I still crack them open when I'm feeling down or need an inspiring kick in the pants.
posted by hegemone at 8:35 AM on January 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

To Kill a Mockingbird
posted by cda at 8:35 AM on January 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

Kit Pearson has a lot of books for that age about girls who grow up not necessarily without mothers but without their mothers around. She was my favourite author when I was your cousin's age and I highly recommend her.
Some of these books include the Guests of War trilogy about two British siblings who are sent to live with a Canadian family during WW2
SPOILER! their parents die near the end
There's also Awake and Dreaming about a girl who lives with her abusive mother and then gets sent to live with her aunt, so she has to deal with taking care of herself.

posted by alon at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2010

Nthing Anne of Green Gables, Secret Garden, Pippi Longstocking.

I also love pretty much everything that wins the Newbury Medal, so I went through the list, which is here, and found some of the ones I liked.

Pictures of Hollis Woods is about a girl in the foster system who wishes she hadn't run away from her last foster family. It's really easy to read.

Hope Was Here is great. Hope's mother is alive but left her daughter when she was really young.

Belle Prater's Boy is great as well. It's written from the point of view of Belle Prater's niece, who tries to help her cousin with Belle's disappearance.

Walk Two Moons is pretty much a classic. And possibly one of the best young adult books I've ever read. I won't spoil the end for you, but it's about a girl dealing with her mother's disappearance.

I'm guessing she's already read The With of Blackbird Pond (if she hasn't, it's awesome), and probably most of those Newbury Medal books already.

If she's already outgrown the Newburys, she would probably enjoy Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations. Those all have parentless children in them.

Huck Finn is probably one of my favorite books in the whole world.

Les Miserables is great, of course.

I don't like Jane Eyre very much, but I know a lot of people do.

If she wants to get into Jane Austen, Persuasion and Emma both center around motherless young women.

To Kill A Mockingbird is amazing too.

I hope those help!
posted by pecknpah at 8:47 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First thing that came to my mind was the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. They're about a girl who's mother died when she was five, who lives with her father and older brother and deals with all the normal parts of growing up including bullies, friends, boyfriends, etc.

The books, of which there are many, follow her from third grade through high school. I only read the older books (Reluctantly Alice, Simply Alice), as I found them later and wasn't interested in reading about elementary schoolkids.
posted by shaun uh at 8:50 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Robin McKinley and definitely, definitely The Hero and the Crown.
posted by dilettante at 9:56 AM on January 1, 2010

Tamora Pierce's "Song of the Lioness" quartet and "Wild Magic" quartet both have strong female protagonists without mothers. Alanna's mother died in childbirth; Daine's mother was recently murdered. Her Emelan books feature four young people (about twelve when the books start, I think) without parents--three girls and a boy.

Also, everything recommended in this thread is fantastic.
posted by epj at 10:15 AM on January 1, 2010

The Harry Potter books were the first ones that I thought of too. Ooh, just had another thought, the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix - these are fantasy, with bonus points (I think) for the two main characters (Sabriel and Lirael) being teenage girls/women. Also, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman kind of deals with this. I also loved the Kit Pearson books when I was your cousin's age.
posted by purlgurly at 10:49 AM on January 1, 2010

Just thought of another series - the Maisie Dobbs mysteries by J. Winspear. They might be a *little* bit old for your cousin - they're about a woman psychologist/private detective in post-WWI London - she has to go into "service" as a young teen after her mother has died, but lucks into working for a family that puts her through university.
posted by purlgurly at 11:08 AM on January 1, 2010

Tamora Pierce's "Song of the Lioness" quartet and "Wild Magic" quartet both have strong female protagonists without mothers. Alanna's mother died in childbirth; Daine's mother was recently murdered. Her Emelan books feature four young people (about twelve when the books start, I think) without parents--three girls and a boy.

All of Tamora Pierce's books are fantastic. I've read all of them, and I'd recommend the Circle of Magic (Emelan) series over the others, partially because it's my personal favorite and because the children really form a family with each other.
posted by kylej at 11:12 AM on January 1, 2010

Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - the protagonist is orphaned
posted by vacapinta at 11:13 AM on January 1, 2010

It seems like absent mothers may be the most common theme in Western literature for youth, so I think you have a lot of choices, but in terms of great storytelling on this theme I agree with the person above who recommended Walk Two Moons. The Wanderer, also by Sharon Creech, also deals with losing parents and is just such wonderful story-telling - I don't know how anyone could not like it.
posted by serazin at 11:49 AM on January 1, 2010

Tracy Beaker and sequels. Child in care - mother mostly absent. Too young for a reading age of 15, but not too bad if her emotional age is nearer her chronological age.

And another FHB - The Lost Prince. No mother, but the book is pretty much silent about the missing mother. so may not be hugely relevant, but if she likes long old-fashioned fiction it does the job.
posted by paduasoy at 3:26 PM on January 1, 2010

The Higher Power of Lucky, and its sequel, Lucky Breaks, by Susan Patron. The first won the Newbery medal out of left field, the second was published this past year. Both center around a contemporary ten/eleven-year-old motherless girl who lives with an odd assortment of characters in the high Sierra.
posted by emhutchinson at 6:14 PM on January 1, 2010

Seaward, by Susan Cooper, is a book I loved at your cousin's age; I lost my mum when I was young, too, and I felt I could relate to the protagonist in this book, a young girl who has to sort out some mysteries about who her mother was, and who she is.

Lots of good suggestions here already. Nthing the Emily of New Moon series, and adding The Story Girl, also by L. M. Montgomery.
posted by Spinneret at 6:56 PM on January 1, 2010

L.M. Montgomery (whose own mother died when she was a baby) has many great books and short stories about children (mostly girls) without mothers. I absolutely love the Emily series (obviously!) and would highly recommend them to any girl of that age (and Emily is an orphan, with her best friend Ilse being motherless as well.) The Anne books are wonderful as well of course (the fact they don't measure up to the Emily books is because the latter are so wonderful, not because of anything wrong with the former!) I also really like The Story Girl and its sequel The Golden Road, in which both the titular character (the Story Girl) and her cousin who's the narrator are motherless.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:28 PM on January 1, 2010

I really enjoyed The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a YA mystery set in 1950s England (a sequel is about to be published) about an 11 year old girl with a passion for chemistry who finds a body in the vegetable garden... Her mother died when she was a baby and interwoven into the story are moments when she is intrigued by how many things she discovers that she and her mother had in common. It certainly isn't a predominant theme but adds to the charm of the book.
posted by rosebengal at 11:23 AM on January 4, 2010

Response by poster: Fabulous! Thank you guys so much. We got her a few in the Alice series so far, and she loves them; they're very close to her situation as she sees it. Going to bring her to the library soon so we can find more on this list. Thank you again! I'll mark more best answers once she tries more books :)
posted by Verdandi at 6:58 PM on January 21, 2010

« Older MP4 problems - please help!   |   Not excited about taking a low-paying job, but do... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.