Searching for Shelter: Books about Homeless Children

November is national Homeless Youth Awareness month. Homeless children and families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in the United States. Sharing books with children and young adults about this issue can help raise awareness and get people involved in finding a solution. Below are some fictional and non-fiction works that deal with homeless children. To find more titles for children about homelessness try searching “Homeless persons,” “Street children,” or “Runaways” as subject terms along with “Juvenile literature” for non-fiction children’s books or “Juvenile fiction” for fictional works.

Intermediate Fiction

Bauer, Joan.
Almost Home. 2012.
Sixth-grader Sugar and her mother lose their beloved house and experience the harsh world of homelessness.
[Center for Children’s Books S. B326a]

Dooley, Sarah.
Body of Water. 2011.
After their trailer home and all their belongings are burned, twelve-year-old Ember and her Wiccan family move to a lakeside campground where Ember’s anguish over losing her dog, as well as her friendship with the boy she fears started the fire, stops her from making new friends and moving on.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. D7207b]

Fenner, Carol.
The King of Dragons. 1998.
Having lost access to the old railroad station where they had been staying, homeless Ian and his father move into an unused city courthouse and try to avoid being discovered by the authorities.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. F363k]

Fox, Paula.
Monkey Island. 1991.
Forced to live on the streets of New York after his mother disappears from their hotel room, eleven-year-old Clay is befriended by two men who help him survive.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. F833mon]

Hamilton, Virginia.
The Planet of Junior Brown. 1993.
Already a leader in New York’s underground world of homeless children, Buddy Clark takes on the responsibility of protecting the overweight, emotionally disturbed friend with whom he has been playing hooky from eighth grade all semester.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. H18p 1993]

Holman, Felice.
Slake’s Limbo. 1974.
Thirteen year-old Aremis Slake, hounded by his fears and misfortunes, flees them into New York City’s subway tunnels, never again — he believes — to emerge.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. H731s]

Paulsen, Gary.
Paintings from the Cave: Three Novellas. 2011.
In these three novellas, Gary Paulsen explores how children can survive the most difficult circumstances through art and the love of dogs.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. P285pa]

Sand-Eveland, Cyndi.
Tinfoil Sky. 2012.
When Mel and her mother leave the home of an abusive man, Mel allows herself to dream of a secure place to live, but that dream soon falls apart when the grandmother that they looked to for shelter is not as expected.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. Sa5612t]

Young Adult Fiction

Booth, Coe.
Tyrell. 2006.
Fifteen-year-old Tyrell, who is living in a Bronx homeless shelter with his spaced-out mother and his younger brother, tries to avoid temptation so he does not end up in jail like his father.
[SSHEL S Collection S. B6445t]

Bowsher, Melodie.
My Lost and Found Life. 2006.
When her mother is accused of embezzling a million dollars and vanishes, spoiled, selfish Ashley must fend for herself by finding a job and a place to live.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. B687m]

Brooks, Martha.
Being with Henry. 2000.
A teenage outcast, a grieving old man, and an untold story come together in unexpected ways in this moving novel about losing family — and finding it.
[SSHEL Oak Street S. B7916be 2000]

Cooley, Beth.
Shelter. 2006.
Following her father’s death and the discovery of his debts, high school sophomore Lucy moves with her mother and brother from their upper-middle-class neighborhood into a homeless shelter where she tries to come to terms with her new life.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. C769s]

Griffin, Paul.
Ten Mile River. 2008.
Having escaped from juvenile detention centers and foster care, two teenaged boys live on their own in an abandoned shack in a New York City park, making their way by stealing, occasionally working, and trying to keep from being arrested.
[Center for Children’s Books S. G8756t]

Haworth-Attard, Barbara.
Theories of Relativity. 2005.
Dylan is living on the streets because he’s been cut loose by his unstable mother, and lost most contact with his two younger brothers. He has nothing but his backpack stuffed with a few precious belongings and his theories. Like how every fourth person throws him spare change; how no one does anything for anyone without a price; and how he just might be able to find a place in this complicated world.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. H317t]

Ryan, Darlene.
Pieces of me. 2012.
Maddie is living on the streets, trying to protect herself and make enough money to get a place to stay and find a way to go back to school. When she meets Q, she is wary but welcomes his friendship. And then she meets Dylan, a six-year-old boy, living on the streets with his family. When Dylan’s father asks Maddie to watch the boy for a while, she is happy to help. But Dylan’s parents don’t come back; and Maddie and Q are left looking after him. Trying to make a life together and care for her makeshift family, Maddie finds that maybe she has to ask for help.
[SSHEL S-Collection S. R953p]

Van Draanen, Wendelin.
Runaway. 2006.
After running away from her fifth foster home, Holly, a twelve-year-old orphan, travels across the country, keeping a journal of her experiences and struggle to survive.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. V287ru]

Walters, Eric.
Sketches. 2008.
After running away from home, fifteen-year-old Dana finds friends on the Toronto streets, and, eventually, a way to come to terms with what has happened to her.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. W1712sk]


Allison, Anthony.
Hear These Voices: Youth at the Edge of the Millennium. 1999.
Presents case studies of teenagers living with homelessness, prostitution, alcoholism, and neighborhood violence and interviews with staff members from organizations committed to helping teenagers in crisis.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. 305.235 AL56h]

Berck, Judith.
No Place to Be: Voices of Homeless Children. 1992.
The stories and poems of actual homeless children depict the reality of homelessness in America, illustrating what it means to be deprived of the things most people take for granted.
[SSHEL S-Collection and Center for Children’s Books S. 362.7086942 B451n]

Hubbard, Jim.
Lives Turned Upside Down: Homeless Children in Their Own Words and Photographs. 1996.
Two girls and two boys, ages nine to twelve, talk about their own personal experiences with homelessness and life in shelters.
[Center for Children’s Books S. 362.7086942 H861L]

Switzer, Ellen.
Anyplace But Here: Young, Alone, and Homeless: What to Do. 1992.
Examines the problems that lead young people to live on the streets and what life is like for them there. Also provides information on how they can get help.
[Center for Children’s Books S. 362.74 SW68a]