Culture and News

Best Children’s Books About Addiction and Recovery

Children's books are an excellent tool for teaching about addiction and recovery. There are many great titles a parent can choose.

Many parents and counselors use children’s books to explain addiction. Substance use is a big problem facing communities all over the United States, and it’s important to protect not just ourselves but our children as well. After all, when our kids grow up, they’re also going to be faced with the temptation of substance use and the threat it can cause if they use illicit drugs or overuse or misuse substances like alcohol and prescription medications.

There are many ways to teach kids about drug addiction, recovery, and even the harmful effects that drugs can have. From the PSAs and anti-drug video games of the 80s and 90s to the modern in-school education campaigns to teach kids to stay safe and say no, there is no shortage of ways adults can pass the message to our children. However, if you have a person who is struggling with substance use disorder in your life, you’ll need a more personal way to talk about substances with your kids.

Why Use Books to Discuss Addiction Recovery?

Books are a great tool to get children to learn about addiction and recovery because they avoid many pitfalls associated with other forms of anti-drug education tactics. They’re also in a format that’s easy for parents to use privately at home.

The other benefits of using books include:

  • The ability to filter based on age – Some of these books are suitable for slightly older audiences, while others are designed for younger kids. Parents can control which books they read to their kids and avoid dealing with anything that isn’t age appropriate.
  • Less graphic – Anti-drug commercials are infamous for their shocking imagery, which were more likely to scare kids than teach them anything about drugs. These books handle the subject without the need to include frightening visuals, helping them have a more significant impact.
  • Helps explain serious topics – Substance use disorder is something kids will have to learn about at one point or another, but that doesn’t make the subject any less heavy. For parents, especially parents who have a history of suffering from a substance use disorder of their own, these books can be a good way to introduce children to the topic and guide the conversation.
  • Relatable characters – Another benefit of using books to explain addiction to children is that these books are full of characters kids can root for and sympathize with. Seeing the impacts of SUD on a character your child likes can help the message sink in while still allowing the story to remain on the lighter and more positive side. Whether these characters are kids like them, critters, or anything in between, having characters who go through relatable scenarios can be a great way to teach children about these issues.

In general, books are a great way to introduce these deeper, more realistic themes to kids while still controlling the conversation and ensuring that they don’t learn about topics they can’t handle yet. The following books are all written specifically to help children understand more about addiction and anything related to it. There are many children’s books focused on explaining addiction and recovery, and here’s a look at several of our favorites.

Addiction Books

Addiction Books With Animals and Creatures

One benefit to using books is that younger children can learn about addiction through stories about cute animals suffering from addictions to things like candy, plants, and more. By focusing on these metaphors, kids are able to understand complex themes without the horror of seeing this illness affect kids like them.

There are many books that fit into this category, and we’ve chosen a few of them to highlight. From fantasy monsters to cute rabbit children, teach your children more about addiction with these fun and inspiring books.

Critters Cry Too: Explaining Addiction to Children

Critters Cry Too
In this fully illustrated book by Anthony Curcio, kids can learn about addiction through a fun story about fantastical critters being introduced to a substance called “whateveritwas,” which changes the way these critters act as they develop an addiction to it. Focusing on a critter named Calvin as he tries to adapt to the new situation and overcome the obstacles presented, kids can learn not just about substance use disorders, but also about managing their emotions, asking for help, and showing compassion for anyone affected by a substance.


If you want to teach your children about addiction through the story of a young horse, then Jumper, written by Shelley Call Flake, is the book for you. Focusing on the titular Jumper, the story follows him as he is separated from his mother, who becomes addicted to a toxic plant. Children will learn about the impact of addiction, as well as about handling trauma, undergoing the healing process, and learning to develop empathy and forgiveness.

Stoney the Pony’s Most Inspiring Year: Teaching Children About Addiction Through Metaphor

Kids don’t just need to learn about how their parents or friends may be suffering from or develop an addiction to drugs. It’s also important to teach them to seek help if they themselves end up in that situation. In this book, by author Linda Myers, Stoney the Poney becomes addicted to peppermint candies.

The other characters are worried as Stoney’s behavior changes while he pursues his craving, even breaking into a barn to steal some of the candies from others. Of course, through the help and love of his friends and family who step in when they realize he’s sick, Stoney is set on the path to recovery.

Zeeko: The Bunny Who Lost His Way

Written by Nita Bradley, Zeeko is the story of a cute, fun-loving rabbit who finds himself in a forbidden garden after traveling down a dangerous path. Through the story of this rabbit and his ensuing struggle with addiction, kids will learn about the dangers of substance use, how those substances impact individuals and their families, and the importance of getting help from the ones you love.

Kids will relate to Zeeko as they see the sweet young rabbit go in the wrong direction and make the wrong choices, as well as when they see him get the help he needs through loving intervention.

Fresh Fables: The Dragon Who Lives at Our House

In this book by Elaine Michelle Palmore, a story of an addicted father is told through the metaphor of a father who becomes consumed by his relationship with Al the dragon. Al starts out as a welcome face at family gatherings, but as the dad becomes more and more focused on him, the dragon gets larger, and the family is forced from the house. With treatment, hope is restored to the family, and the dragon shrinks down — notably not disappearing but becoming manageable once more.

Addiction Books About Children and Their Parents

Many kids don’t just experience the realities of substance use disorder in their communities or friend groups. An unfortunate reality is that a lot of children are growing up with a parent who struggles with the condition, which not only impacts how they see their parents but how their parent acts and treats them. For these kids, understanding more about how addiction can affect their parents can offer some help, not just in having empathy but in understanding that their feelings are valid, they aren’t alone in dealing with this, and that healing and recovery are always possible.

These are very common themes when it comes to kid’s books about addiction, and we’ve selected a few that handle the topic with the weight it deserves while still being kid-friendly and digestible.

Addie’s Mom Isn’t Home Anymore

Fresh Fables:
By author Genia Calvin, Addie’s Mom Isn’t Home Anymore focuses on the life of a young girl named Addie, whose mother is suffering from a drug addiction. Addie doesn’t understand the ways her mother is acting and why, but through reading this book to your children, they can learn about some of the symptoms of drug addiction as well as what they can do about it. Any kid in the same situation as Addie will learn that they’re not the only one, as well as that help exists.

Additionally, more books exist in the series to follow the story of Addie and her mother as they continue to deal with the addiction. If your children enjoy the series and want to continue to learn more about addiction and recovery, there’s plenty more for them to read!

Daddy Doesn’t Have to Be a Giant Anymore

For another touching story about having a parent with an addiction, this book by Jane Resh Thomas touches on what it’s like to have a father with alcoholism. The young protagonist sees two different sides of her father — one when he’s not drinking, and one when he is. As her family helps her with the problem, her father undergoes treatment. This book can be used to help children understand that their parent is still their parent even while they’re struggling with an addiction, as well as that other people are around to help if they need it.

Timbia Talks About Addiction

Timbia Talks
To teach her children how to cope with their father’s addiction and subsequent passing, Trish Healy Luna wrote the first draft of Timbia Talks About Addiction. From there, the book was expanded to help children everywhere learn about controlling their emotions even when dealing with situations they can’t control, specifically a parent’s addiction. Children can discover new and easy ways to manage their emotions in times of distress, while also feeling less alone about dealing with their parent’s problems.

Think of the Wind

Think of the Wind
Substance use disorder can be hard for a child to explain, and it can be even harder for them to understand their parents when they’re suffering from one. In Think of the Wind by Catherine J. Mercury, a young boy’s father is suffering from an addiction to alcohol. To make it easier for both children and for the protagonist to grasp, the condition is compared to the wind. It’s there, and kids know it’s there, but it’s difficult to describe or explain to others. The same is true of the father and their addiction. This is another book that can help children cope with a difficult situation while also learning that they aren’t alone.


As your kids get older, the need to use metaphors and fiction starts to be replaced with a need to convey more facts about the real-life situation. For older kids who need to learn more about the dangers of drugs with real-life stories, High, by father and son team David Sheff & Nic Sheff, provides this. This story is written based on the experiences of the writers and incorporates testimonials from families and peers who have dealt with drugs firsthand or witnessed addiction happening to loved ones.

The Tricky Sticky Addiction Monster

Tricky Sticky
For a unique take on the common stories about parents who have addictions, Charlaine Sevigny’s The Tricky Sticky Addiction Monster uses addiction as the story’s villain, a separate entity from the struggling parent. By framing it in this light, it becomes more possible for children to understand that their parent is much more than just the addiction they’re struggling with and that the addiction is instead a disease that is hurting them.

With fun, colorful illustrations and a story that can apply to any child whose parent has an addiction, this book is a great way to teach kids that addictions aren’t anyone’s fault, nor are they the definition of who a person is underneath it all.

Join Our Addiction Recovery Community

Addiction can be a difficult thing to explain to a child, especially to a young person who may not be able to understand complex or nuanced subjects. Through the use of books, it’s possible to teach kids about what it’s like to live with, suffer from, get help for, or simply witness an addiction. Your kids will learn all the important stuff they need to through stories about fun and relatable characters, from having empathy for anyone suffering to knowing that their own emotions are valid and that anyone, even them, can suffer from an addiction.

Teen reading

Addiction Freedom Now is dedicated to providing our readers with resources to help them recover from or understand more about addiction and how it impacts ourselves and our communities. To stay up to date with the latest and most important news and information, subscribe to our addiction recovery community, and help us make the world a safer and healthier place for all of us.

Prev Next