Families come in all shapes and sizes...

Families come in all shapes and sizes...


No family looks the same. All families are different and unique. Approximately 1 in 10 children in the UK live in a blended family, with stepparents and stepsiblings all under one roof. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate that almost half of all children come from separated households and a quarter of families are headed by a single parent. However, although there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ or ‘conventional’ family unit, it can still be hard for young people to adapt to these major changes in their lives.

In May we were proud to publish two titles which celebrate, and examine the difficulties of, adapting to life as part of a blended family unit. In Too Nice, Abby struggles to bond with her dad’s new girlfriend, Jen, not because Jen is unkind but because she is smothering Abby in kindness, and Abby just wants her own space. In When Saturday Comes, Daniel must choose between his newfound passion for football and his father’s weekend visits. Both authors have drawn on their own individual experience of growing up in a single parent household to create these sensitive, timely stories, which they have kindly shared with us below.

Sally Nicholls, author of Too Nice:

Like Abby, I grew up in a single-parent family. Although I never got a stepparent, I can imagine what it would have been like if a stranger had moved into my house, and I'm not sure how I would have coped. (I find it hard enough when friends come to stay for the weekend.)

Too Nice is about the push/retreat dynamic when one person is trying too hard to be friendly and the other finds it overwhelming. This is often seen in romantic relationships, but it's one that can exist in friendships and families too. It's a tricky one to negotiate because, as Abby struggles with in the book, the other person is being nice. They aren't doing anything wrong! And it feels ridiculous to complain about someone doing your laundry for you or buying you lovely presents. There's a sense that you're being horrible or ungrateful if you don't respond with anything except enthusiasm. But actually this sort of dynamic isn't helpful for lots of reasons. This is particularly hard for Abby, because she's desperate to be seen as a good person, and she does genuinely like her new stepmother. But she also needs space.

My original pitch for this book was set in lockdown. I had two small children in 2020, and little kids are the epitome of this sort of relationship, especially for an introvert like me. They don't even let you go to the toilet in peace! I wanted something of that sense of claustrophobia to find its way into the book too.

Tony Bradman, author of When Saturday Comes:

My parents got divorced in the early 1960s when I was eight, and I didn’t see my father at all for a few years. He was working abroad, and I barely recognised him when he came home. He wanted to re-establish a relationship with me, so we slipped into a routine of Saturday visits – he came at 10.30 on a Saturday to the flat where I was living with my mum and then took me out somewhere for a couple of hours. I looked forward to those outings, but I still remember that they could be quite awkward. My mum and dad didn’t get on very well, and that could be difficult too.

So, for a long time I’ve wanted to explore those feelings in a story, especially because I know there are more divorces these days and many more children struggle with their feelings about things when it happens. Then I remembered that when I started secondary school, I got into my year’s rugby team. But the team played their games on Saturday mornings, and that was the only time my dad could come and see me. That meant I had to make the same kind of choice as Daniel in When Saturday Comes – and it was a good friend in my year who helped me make it.

It ended well for me – my dad was keen to come and see me play rugby – but I wondered what it might have been like if he’d felt differently. And so, Daniel’s story was born …