Welcome to the online home of Healing Stories: Picture Books for the Big and Small Changes in a Child's Life. Here you'll find information about Healing Stories, along with unique resources to support you in using picture books to help children through the challenges they face, from the everyday to major trauma.

Have you ever wished that you could find just the right book for a child? Maybe a child in your life is anticipating a big change, such as having a new brother or sister, starting school for the first time, or moving to a new house. Maybe something difficult and painful has happened, such as a divorce, a serious illness, or a death. Or maybe you just know a child who is fearful at bedtime, or is a fussy eater, or has a bad day occasionally. It may have occurred to you that sharing a story could help the child in your life manage the situation that she or he is going through.

Why a story? A healing story is a comforting experience. As a child, it’s a comfort to know that other kids have gone through what you’re going through - whether it’s something as ordinary as starting school for the first time, or something as traumatic as a natural disaster. It’s a comfort to know that other children have had the feelings you’re having, and that there are ways to solve the problem or to get through the situation. Most of all, it’s a comfort to share this experience by reading with an adult who cares deeply about you. And when you’ve read this healing story with your parent or another caring adult enough, the book itself - and ultimately, the story (in the absence of a physical book) - becomes a comfort. But, as a parent or other concerned adult, how will you find this healing story to share with your child?

Healing Stories puts at your fingertips an annotated listing of more than 500 picture books that was prepared just for this purpose. Each story or nonfiction picture book has been carefully selected by a psychologist who works extensively with children. Each chapter includes summaries of picture books relevant to a specific concern that children may have, empowering you to select the books that best match the child and the situation you’re concerned about. Healing Stories also includes a helpful introduction that discusses ways to use books with children who are experiencing life changes or stress.

Below you'll find reviews of picture books that aren't included in Healing Stories, and can be valuable sources of healing for children.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Wonderful Happens by Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Coco Dowley. 34 p., Simon and Schuster, 2000.

The author draws the reader's awareness to the wonder of everyday things, such as bread, cats, apples, roses, and pie. She comments that "the wonderful" happens over and over again - including in the existence of the child reader. This book will help to promote children's self-acceptance through a sense of having a place in the world of nature.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, December 23, 2007

All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka

32 p., Morrow, 1994.

This poetically worded book celebrates the many colors that children come in, and the many textures their hair can have. According to the author, like children, love comes in many colors. This book promotes acceptance and appreciation of diversity among people.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Storm in the Night by Mary Stolz

Illustrated by Pat Cummings. 32 pages. Harper and Row, 1988.

During a storm that interrupts electric service, Thomas, about six or seven years old, notices sounds and smells in a way that he hadn't before. Although he says he isn't afraid, his grandfather tells him a story of being fearful during a storm at Thomas's age. As the story goes on, Thomas is able to acknowledge his fear a little, and the storm subsides. Children may be more able to acknowledge their own fears after reading this story.

Ages: 3-8
Cultural Context: African American

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Jewel Box Ballerinas by Monique de Varennes

Illus by Ana Juan. 40 pages. Random House, 2007.

Sometimes the capacity for friendship and caring can be found in unlikely places. Bibi, a wealthy woman who loves fine things, doesn't have any friends. One of her possessions is a bejeweled music box that has two beautiful, but very sad-looking, ballerinas inside. When Bibi eventually acknowledges the ballerinas' sadness, she tries to cheer them up. She kisses them, and although she isn't sure this changes their expressions, she notices that it feels good to her to love them. Trying to make the ballerinas happy, Bibi takes them a on a trip around the world. But she loses the ballerinas. As she searches desperately for them, she says she'd give up all her possessions to have them. At this moment, they grow into real girls as they're reunited with Bibi. She realizes that she has friends - and that friends are all she really needs. Bibi has shown children that friendship is more valuable than ownership of things, and more subtly, that being a friend means treating the other like a person, not an object.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day by Loreen Leedy

32 p., Holiday, 1994.

The Edible Pyramid restaurant opens, and the maitre'd explains the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid, which recommends food choices for good nutrition. Many examples of each level of the pyramid are shown, and the book includes a helpful discussion of the meaning of serving sizes. This book offers clear, useful information on healthy nutrition, with a positive outlook on fruits and vegetables and the realistic advice to allow small amounts of sweets and fats.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Annie and the Old One by Miska Miles

Illustrated by Peter Parnall. 48 p., Little, Brown, 1971.

Annie, who is about 10 years old, tries to keep her beloved grandmother's death from happening. Because the Old One has said that she will die when Annie's mother has finished weaving her rug, Annie does disruptive things intended to keep her mother from weaving. Finally, with help from her grandmother herself, Annie realizes that we are all part of the earth, and accepts her grandmother's impending death. A limitation of this story is that it uses phrases such as "go to Mother Earth" to represent death. However, this story can help children hold simultaneously their sadness in losing someone they love, and their wonder in the interconnection of all things.

Ages: 8-12
Cultural Context: Native American

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Home Now by Lesley Beake

Illustrated by Karin Littlewood. 28 pages. Charlesbridge, 2007.

As this story begins, Sieta is living in a new home, her "Home Now," with her Aunty. She has been traumatized by her parents' deaths (explained in an afterword as due to AIDS). Emotionally disconnected from the friendly world of Home Now, Sieta lives in her memories - both the happy memories of her parents alive and healthy, and the sad, painful memories of their illness and death. This begins to change when her school visits a park where orphaned elephants are cared for. Sieta realizes that she and the smallest elephant, Satara, have in common being orphaned and being Home Now. Meeting Satara is an emotionally meaningful experience, with the result that Sieta finds herself thinking about him along with her memories of her old home. Now she can allow herself to notice that although her new community isn't perfect, it's alive and good. With this realization, she begins to feel a sense of connection with her Aunty and with another child. This story offers compassion and hope to children who have been traumatized by death.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: African

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bud and Gabby by Anne Davis

32 p., HarperCollins, 2006.

Bud and Gabby, two cats, are best friends, even if Bud is, by his own admission, "the bossy one." They do everything together, both cat things and people things, and Bud genuinely appreciates Gabby. When Gabby gets sick and Bud can't even make her laugh, she has to stay at the hospital. Bud misses her terribly, remembering all her admirable qualities and moping as only a cat can. (He grooms so much that he gets a big hairball). When Gabby comes home healthy, Bud is so happy that he decides not to be so bossy any more. This charming story empathizes with how hard it is to miss a friend who is sick and offers hope, all the while using humor to help readers cheer up.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sophie's Window by Holly Keller

32 p., Greenwillow, 2005.

Here's a story that both makes room for being little and celebrates being big when you're ready. Caruso, a little pigeon, doesn't feel ready to fly, but one night, a gust of wind carries him off the roof where he lives and onto another building's windowsill. Inside the window is Sophie, a dog. Sophie become's Caruso's friend and takes him home on her back. Although Caruso is relieved to be home, he misses Sophie. One day, he's ready to fly, and he goes straight to Sophie's house. They reunite joyfully, and look forward to seeing each other often. Illustrated with charming watercolors, this story allows children permission to be as little as they need to be, while showing how being big opens the door to the joys of friendship.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fat Chance Thanksgiving by Patricia Lakin

Illustrated by Stacey Schuett. 32 pages. Whitman, 2001.

Making connections can be an important part of coping with disaster. When a fire destroys Carla and Mama's apartment building, all Carla has left is a book about the pilgrims' Thanksgiving, which becomes a source of hope as she waits for a new home. After nearly a year in a hotel, they get a new apartment two weeks before Thanksgiving. She wants to plan a feast, but all Mama says is "Fat chance." Carla enlists the help of a new friend to hold a potluck in the apartment lobby, and by the end of the story, many new friends share a feast. Children will see how imagination, problem solving, and persistence promote healing from the losses of a fire.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Never, No Matter What by Maryleah Otto

Illustrated by Clover Clarke. The Women's Press, 1988.

Mark's Mum doesn't pick him up at day care. When his teacher tries to call home, the line is busy for a long time. She takes him home, where it's clear that Dad has been beating Mum. The teacher reminds Mum that Dad's behavior is not acceptable, and gives her the phone number of a women's shelter. Moments later, Mark's little sister, Sara, tears up a picture Mark made at day care, and Mark responds by yelling at her, cussing, and punching her. Mum stops him immediately, first yelling and pushing, then crying and hugging him. When Dad leaves the house, Mum calls the shelter and takes Mark and Sara there. The adults and children there are kind to the family. The shelter director explains that it is never OK for Dad to hit them, and Mum tells Mark that they may not live with him any more because it isn't safe. Mark misses his home, but feels safe at the shelter. The story is followed by some questions and answers about partner violence. This story should probably only be used with children who have shown aggressive behavior similar to Mark's.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Hope Tree: Kids Talk About Breast Cancer by Laura Numeroff and Wendy S. Harpham

Illustrated by David McPhail. 26 p., Simon & Schuster, 1999.

This book is written in the format of a scrapbook by members of a support group for (animal) children whose mothers have breast cancer. Each page addresses one issue common to these children, and is written in the first person and signed with a first name and age (5-12). The book explains what cancer is in a very simple way, and addresses children's worries about contagion, visiting the clinic, how Mom feels when she has chemotherapy, making the best of the bad days, family functioning, having a range of feelings, and helping out even though children can't cure their mothers' cancer. The last child shares her hope tree, saying that no matter how bad things get, she can always have hope. This story offers children the empathy of a "virtual support group", models of ways to have a positive, but realistic, outlook, and constructive ways to cope.

Ages: 5-12
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Harry and the Dinosaurs say "Raahh!" by Ian Whybrow

Illustrated by Adrian Reynolds. 28 p., Random, 2004.

Harry is a little frightened of going to the dentist because he worries that he might have to have teeth drilled. He takes along his toy dinosaurs, who help him feel safe. When Harry tells the nurse at his dentist's office that he's a good boy, "but my dinosaurs bite," we understand that he's basically fine, but has some fears that feel a bit out of control. To let Dr. Drake know who's in charge, Harry presses a magic button on his tyrannosaurus, and the dinosaur grows huge, terrifying the dentist until Harry makes the dinosaur small again. Harry is now in control of his fears, and so he's able to allow the examination. Unfortunately, there are two references to Harry being "good" (he also gets to choose a library book "for being so good"), which tends to confuse his behavior with who he fundamentally is. But this otherwise delightful story can show children that fears of the dentist are manageable.

Ages: 3-6
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Get Well Soon Book by Kes Gray

Illustrated by Mary McQuillan. 26 pages. Millbrook Press, 2000.

On each page, an animal has an odd, and in some sense amusing, injury; for example, a centipede has sprained all but two of her 100 ankles playing field hockey. All the animals do what their doctors recommend, and all recover. Some children who would be sensitive to the animals' plight might find it more upsetting than funny. However, this story will remind many children that it could be worse, and will promote their wellness through humor.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Love You the Purplest by Barbara Joosse

Illustrated by Mary Whyte. 26 pages. Chronicle Books, 1996.

This story addresses the concerns a child may have about being loved enough when there is more than one child in the family. Two brothers, Max and Julian, go fishing with their Mama. They ask Mama whose can has more worms, who is the best rower and the best fisherman - and finally, at bedtime, which brother she loves most. She responds to each question by expressing her experience of the uniqueness of each child. She loves Julian the bluest and Max the reddest. At the end, the author describes them as "the boys she loved best." This story conveys the idea that a new sibling can't displace an older child, because the older child is loved for him- or her- unique self.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

32 pages. Candlewick, 2003.

Sometimes it takes just a tiny step -or a tiny dot- to begin to have self-confidence. As this story begins, Vashti is absolutely convinced that she can't draw. With her teacher's gentle encouragement to "just make a mark and see where it takes you," she resentfully makes a dot. Remarkably, when she allows this, the dot takes her farther than she'd ever imagined. She paints dots in different colors and sizes. She shows her paintings at the school art show. There, she is recognized as an artist, and shares what she's learned with another child. With Vashti, children can learn how to allow their potentials to unfold, and may even allow themselves to acknowledge their capabilities.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Uncle Rain Cloud by Tony Johnston

Illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck. 32 p., Charlesbridge, 2001.

Carlos's Tío Tomás nearly always seems to be grumpy. He is a monolingual Spanish speaker and resents the use of English all around him. Carlos enjoys Tío Tomás's brief better moods, when he tells Carlos stories from Mexico about Aztec gods. When Tío Tomás is the only adult available to attend Carlos' parent-teacher conference, his teacher asks third-grader Carlos to serve as interpreter. That night, Carlos asks for an Aztec story, and Tío Tomás expresses the belief that Carlos only likes English, and explains that he is ashamed of his fear of speaking English. Carlos empathizes, telling Tío Tomás that he has been teased about the limitations of his own English. Tío Tomás is impressed by Carlos's courage, and finds within himself the ability to allow Carlos to help him learn. Eventually, Tío Tomás proposes that Carlos keep teaching him English and he keep telling Carlos stories from Mexico, in Spanish. Carlos is delighted, because this will double the knowledge of both. This story will help children understand that culture doesn't have to be an "either-or" attribute - it can be "both/and," to the person's benefit.

Ages: 6-10
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman

42 p., Putnam, 2002.

The John J. Harvey is a fireboat that was built in 1931 and fought many fires. By 1995, it was to be sold for scrap; five years later, a group of friends decided to buy it just for fun. They had it restored, but people still said it could never help fight a fire. When the World Trade Center was attacked on September 11, 2001, and fires broke out, the owners of the Harvey volunteered to use it to help. It was used to fight fires when other methods could not work. "The Harvey was a hero." A limitation is the use of the pronoun "she" to refer to the boat. But children might identify with the Harvey because of its apparent inability to manage disasters; if so, they may feel that they, too, can be heroes.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Furry by Holly Keller

24 p., Greenwillow, 1992.

Laura wants a pet, but she finds that she has allergic symptoms around all kinds of animals, and her doctor diagnoses her as allergic to animals with fur or feathers. She cries. Her friend, her parents, and her brother offer her other kinds of pets - a frog, a snake, a goldfish, a turtle - but Laura feels that she only wants a pet with fur. But when her brother brings home a chameleon for her, she can't help being fascinated by it. Her brother suggests the name "Furry" for it. She acknowledges that "maybe" she could like it. This story will help allergic children feel hopeful that they could enjoy a pet that they aren't allergic to.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, August 19, 2007

How My Parents Learned To Eat by Ina R. Friedman

Illustrated by Allen Say. 32 pages. Houghton Mifflin, 1984.

A girl tells about the experiences of her parents, a Japanese student and an American sailor, when they first met. Wanting very much to eat dinner together, but not wanting to acknowledge to each other that they don't know how, they learn each other's eating customs, he from a waiter, she from her uncle, who had visited England. Both want very much to eat in each other's style. So, the girl concludes, at their house they sometimes eat with knives and forks, and sometimes with chopsticks. The parents show a good example of mutual respect across cultures, and the girl's comfort with her multicultural heritage shows children a way to make room for elements of different cultures.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug! by Ed Emberley

32 pages. Little, Brown, 2007.

Bullies can be scary at least partly because they're big, and it's a relief to discover that there's someone bigger. When the Big Bad Bullybug putt-putts down in his spaceship, he threatens to scare, bite, growl at, tickle, pinch, scratch, stomp on, and finally eat up the itty-bitty baby bugs. In his trademark style, Ed Emberley reveals the bug by adding one frightening feature at a time. When the Bullybug is complete, readers get a sudden sense of perspective as a giant sneaker appears and squooshes it so that it putt-putts away. With its brilliant colors and delightful alliteration, this remarkable book evokes kids' tension and provides a reassuring resolution. It clearly conveys the message that even when a bully seems big and scary, someone who's even bigger can keep them safe.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Don't Forget To Come Back! by Robie H. Harris

Illustrated by Harry Bliss. 34 pages. Candlewick, 2004.

It can be scary when your parents go out, but you might discover that you're safe with your babysitter. The little girl in this story is so worried about her parents' going out for the evening that she imagines that a moose will come into the house and eat her up. She questions her parents' love for her, and in her anger, acts out what they're about to do - leave her - by "running away" to the closet. Her parents calmly accept her concerns, and her babysitter, Sarah, joins her in lots of her favorite activities - eating pizza, painting their nails, and putting on clown make-up. In the morning, the little girl lets her parents - and readers - know that she's been safe with Sarah by telling them that Sarah didn't let a moose in. Readers know that she really means it when they see a huge moose resting its chin on the roof of the family's house. Children will understand that their feelings are accepted, their parents do come back, and they can be safe and have fun with a sitter even when their parents are out.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hugs On the Wind by Marsha Diane Arnold and Vernise Elaine Pelzel

Illustrated by Elsa Warnick. 32 pages. Abrams, 2006.

Separation can be more tolerable when children use their imagination to remind them of their connection with the person they miss. In Hugs on the Wind, Little Cottontail misses his grandfather, who is far away. When he imagines Grandfather missing him, too, it occurs to him that he can send love to Grandfather in many ways. He can send hugs to Grandfather on the wind, smiles through the clouds, and his funniest joke through the babbling river. This not only brings him joy, but also allows him to imagine Grandfather singing to him in the song of the rustling trees, and winking at him in the winking stars. With the loving support of his Mama Cottontail, he clearly experiences Grandfather as being close in his heart. Gentle watercolor illustrations expressively convey both the bunny's earnest littleness and his secure, relaxed sense of comfort in nature. With Little Cottontail, children can find creative ways to stay connected to someone who is far away.

Ages: 3-6
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Paper Chain by Claire Blake, Eliza Blanchard and Kathy Parkinson

Illustrated by Kathy Parkinson. 34 pages. Health Press, 1998.

Ben and Marcus's Mom goes to the hospital for an operation. They make a paper chain with two links for each day that she will be away, so that they can each pull a link off every day. Because their hugs hurt Mom's incision, Dad invents a "yarn hug" by wrapping a piece of yarn around Mom and the children. Eventually Mom discloses that she has cancer, assuring Ben that he can't catch it. She is honest about not knowing when she will get better. Mom takes the children to meet her oncologist, and to see the room where she will have chemotherapy and the radiation facility. Although the children miss Mom during her treatments and when she is home but debilitated, they find ways to have fun with their babysitter and Dad. Ben and Marcus express and work through their worries through play with bears and through caring for an injured bird. At the end of the story, Mom's cancer is in remission. An introduction for adults and a brief glossary are included. This story offers children empathy with the experience of having a parent who has cancer, models for positive coping and sticking together as a family, and hope for getting through this difficult time.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Grandpa Abe by Marisabina Russo

Greenwillow, 1996.

Sarah tells the story of her relationship with her Grandpa Abe from the time of her birth (when he was Grandma's boyfriend) until his death when she is nine years old. In doing this, she is sharing her memories of him, which she has securely within herself. She is depicted as experiencing mostly disbelief in response to his death; her Grandma's sadness is also shown. With Grandma's permission, Sarah keeps one of Abe's sweaters, and she is able to help Grandma smile by doing a magic trick Abe taught her. This story shows how remembering someone can help the mourning process and can keep with us someone who has died.

Ages: 2-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe

Illustrated by Ed Young. 32 pages. Gulliver/Harcourt Brace, 1987.

Sometimes a lack of appreciation for oneself leads to a wish to be someone else. In I Wish I Were a Butterfly, the littlest cricket in the pond wishes he were a butterfly, because a frog told him that he's ugly. He's so sad that he doesn't want to make music like the other crickets. Other insects tell him the kinds of unhelpful things that people often say to one another; for example, that it's no use to wish to be different, and that he shouldn't pay attention to the frog. He finally learns from the Old One, a spider, that there are more ways to see himself, and that he can take on the compassionate point of view of a friend, not the less-thoughtful point of view of a stranger. This story shows children how to choose a kind, caring perspective from which to see themselves.

Ages: 3-8
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A New Room for William by Sally Grindley

Illustrated by Carol Thompson. 26 pages. Candlewick, 2000.

As this story begins, William is moving into his new house, and he doesn't like it. He misses his old house, and the view from his old room of the garden he and Dad had there. What is unsaid, and not even hinted at until the very last lines of the book, is that he has moved because his parents have divorced. His mom helps him decorate his new room, and he allows himself to choose new wallpaper instead trying to replicate what he had at his old house. At the same time, he's also allowing himself to make a new friend. Having taken these steps into his new life, he finds himself happy and comfortable. Children will understand that although the changes of divorce are difficult in many ways, positive changes are possible too.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Let's Go Swimming With Mr. Sillypants by M. K. Brown

32 pages. Crown, 1986.

Mr. Sillypants (who wears baggy, bright blue pants with a green and red plaid pattern) has just registered for a swimming class, and finds himself with lots of worries. He makes himself a silly sandwich, worries some more, and goes to bed. He dreams of falling into the water. In his dream, at first, he panics, but then he turns into a fish. Creatures that look a little like the pickles in undersea sandwiches, with olives for eyes, attack him. He's saved by the bell - of his alarm clock - and wakes up confident that everything will be all right in his swim class. In fact, it is fine, even though he's the only adult. This story shows a way to use imagination to be amused by your fears about swimming lessons, which seem quite manageable and ordinary after all the weirdness of Mr. Sillypants' dream.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, June 3, 2007

PJ and Puppy by Cathryn Falwell

26 pages. Clarion, 1997.

PJ has a new potty and a new puppy. PJ and the puppy learn together: PJ to use the potty, and the puppy to use newspapers. They both have accidents while playing, but then wake up dry from naps, and use their respective toilet facilities, inspiring pride in PJ's mother. This amusing book is has very little, and very simple, text. Children can learn along with PJ and the puppy.

Ages: 1-3
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 29 pages. Chronicle, 2002.

This is the true story of the author's grandmother, who was the granddaughter of a man who left China to join the California gold rush and returned to China wealthy. It was unusual at that time and place for girls to be allowed to go to school, but in this family, it was permitted. At the same time, though, while boys had no other responsibilities than school, girls were given household chores. While boys went to university, girls married and were sent to their husbands' families' homes. Ruby is a determined child who insists on wearing red every day, and is the only girl to persist in school, often staying up later than anyone else to fulfill all her responsibilities. She wants to go to university. Ruby is aware that girls are treated unfairly, and expresses this in a poem that comes to the attention of her grandfather. Just when she despairs, he gives her a special gift: a letter of admission to the university. This story offers encouragement to persist in following your dreams in spite of prejudice.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: Asian

Sunday, May 20, 2007

In the Piney Woods by Roni Schotter

Illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root. 32 pages. Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Melanie Kroupa, 2003

Ella and her Grandpa love walking together in the pine barrens near their house. Grandpa has taught her what is special about dwarf pitch pine cones: the seeds inside can only be released to grow if there's a fire, and there will only be room for them to grow if a fire burns down the old trees. As time goes on, Grandpa is less and less able to walk, and even too tired to be carried to the woods by the family - Ella's parents, her pregnant older sister, and sister's partner, Sam. There's a lightning storm, and the woods catch fire. When Ella helps the firefighters, along with Papa and Sam, she finds a pitch pine cone that's opened by the fire, and brings it back to Grandpa. Grandpa soon dies, and Ella plants a seed from the pinecone beside his grave. Months later, a baby pitch pine grows, and Ella's new nephew grows too. Ella plans to teach him all that Grandpa taught her. This story offers children a healing image of the continuity of life.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Blossom and Boo: A Story About Best Friends by Dawn Apperley

26 pages. Little, Brown, 2000.

Blossom (a rabbit) and Boo (a bear) are best friends. They're kind to each other and have fun together. When it's almost time for Boo to hibernate, they tell each other they'll still be best friends even when they can't see each other every day. When Boo doesn't come out one day, Blossom realizes he's hibernating, and she's lonely playing by herself. But she remembers Boo, the good times she had with him, and the ways he taught her to comfort herself, and all that helps. In the spring, they reunite joyfully. Children will understand that friends have fun together and are kind to each other, that friendship can survive separation, and that good memories can help friends cope with being apart.

Ages: 2-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Cat Barked? by Lydia Monks

28 pages, Dial, 1999.

Kids may have difficulty accepting themselves because it seems as if it would be better, somehow, to be someone else. In this rhyming story, a cat wishes it were a dog because of all the exciting things dogs get to do. Then its human points out that if it were a dog, the cat would have to do things it doesn't want to do, and wouldn't be able to do the things that only cats can do. The human urges the cat to stay a cat. As the story ends, the dog, having heard all the great things the person has said about being a cat, starts to wish that it was a cat. This story shows children how to see what's positive about being who they are.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bootsie Barker Bites by Barbara Bottner

Illustrated by Peggy Rathmann. 32 pages. Putnam, 1992.

Unlike the narrator, Bootsie isn't interested in turtles or salamanders - she just wants to pretend that the narrator is one, and she herself is a dinosaur who eats those animals. When the narrator tells her mother that she doesn't like playing with Bootsie, her mother replies that she has to learn to deal with different kinds of people. Faced with the possibility of an overnight visit from Bootsie, the frightened narrator tells her mother that Bootsie intends to eat her alive. When her mother affirms her right not to play Bootsie's game, she thinks of a new one - in which she is a paleontologist, ready to hunt for dinosaur bones. Terrified, Bootsie throws a tantrum, and her parents decide not to leave her overnight. While it's unfortunate that one of the girls always has to be afraid, the narrator has found a way to feel safe, and to avoid putting up with the unwanted visits. Children will see the benefits of using creativity when confronted with a bully.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: European American

Friday, April 27, 2007

One of the Problems of Everett Anderson by Lucille Clifton

Illustrated by Ann Grifalconi. 26 pages. Holt, 2001.

Everett notices that his friend, Greg, has bruises every day, and seems very sad but won't say why. He wonders how to help. When he finally tells his mother, he realizes that she can help make things better for Greg, and that he can help Greg with listening and hugs. This story lets children who have been physically abused know that they're not alone: other kids have been abused too, and friends want to help.

Ages: 5-7
Cultural Context: African American

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Body Is Private by Linda Walvoord Girard

Illustrated by Rodney Pate. 32 pages. Whitman, 1984.

In this story, written in the first person, Julie explains what "private" means, noting that her body, and especially her breasts, vagina, and bottom, is private. Her parents tell her she has the right to say no to any unwanted touch. She also describes some pleasant kinds of touch, saying that "most touching is good." She tells how she said no to an uncle who wanted her to sit on his lap - she was frightened, but able to refuse, with no negative consequences. Her mom compliments her for standing up for herself. She also warns Julie about sexual abuse, explaining that it's unlikely, but important to be prepared for, like a fire. An afterword for adults encourages parents to talk with their children about sexual abuse prevention. This story explains sexual abuse in a clear, explicit way, while letting kids know that it's uncommon and that they can enjoy most touches.

Ages: 6-9
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter

Illustrated by Giselle Potter. 35 pages. Schwartz & Wade, 2006.

When we can be true to ourselves, we can develop our potentials fully and express them in a positive way. Such is the experience of Selig, a boy who loves words, collecting them on slips of paper that he keeps in his pockets. His classmates, and even his parents, find this more than a bit odd. It isn't until he has a magical dream that he begins to grasp the possibilities contained in his passion for words. Then, some of Selig's words find their way to a poet who needs exactly those, and Selig realizes that his mission in life is to share his words with others. He uses his favorite words to do good in all kinds of ways, inspiring gratitude in everyone he meets. Children will not only appreciate the joys of words, but will also see how an attribute that seems to make a kid an "oddball" can be a wonderful talent.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Who is a Stranger and What Should I Do? by Linda Walvoord Girard

Illustrated by Helen Cogancherry. 32 pages. Whitman, 1985.

This non-fiction book gives helpful information about how to respond to strangers in a variety of situations; for example, at school, in other public places, at your door, or on the phone. The author emphasizes that most strangers are nice, and in fact, all of your friends were strangers before you got to know them. She explains that bad strangers don't necessarily look bad. She defines strangers as people whose name and address you and your parents don't know, and whom you haven't gotten to know well, even if you recognize them. She tells kids that it's OK to say Hi to a stranger who has said Hi to you, but not to tell them personal information or to go anywhere with them. She appropriately encourages kids to ask for help from their parents, or other adults they know well, when a stranger is present. She also urges them to run away from strangers who behave inappropriately, and to go to a place where there are other people, especially a police officer or a woman with children. Practice exercises at the end ask the child reader what she or he would do in various situations. An afterword for parents encourages them to teach children about safety from abduction just as they teach fire and water safety, and to reassure them that abduction is rare. This book gives good, solid information, along with reassurance that bad strangers are rare.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Bubba and Trixie by Lisa Campbell Ernst

35 pages. Simon & Schuster, 1997.

This story is about the friendship between Bubba, a fearful caterpillar, and Trixie, a ladybug who can't fly. Trixie helps Bubba face and let go of his fears, and they have a wonderful time together. Bubba begins to enjoy being a caterpillar, and wishes things would stay the same forever. To his surprise, the friendship survives his metamorphosis into a butterfly. Trixie helps him to have the courage to try to fly, and he is able to give her the gift of flying with him. A brief afterword gives facts about the life cycles of caterpillars and ladybugs. What's very special about this friendship is that it gives Bubba (and presumably, Trixie as well) room to grow as an individual without losing the friendship in any way.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Felix Feels Better by Rosemary Wells

32 pages. Candlewick, 2001.

After eating too much candy and staying up too late, Felix wakes up feeling, as his mama says, "peaky." When home remedies don't seem to help, she takes him to Doctor Duck. Felix is afraid that he will have to face Doctor Duck without his mama, and is relieved when the doctor lets his mama stay for the entire examination. Doctor Duck gives Felix Happy Tummy medicine, and the next day, he is his old self again, full of energy. This story reassures children that treatment for minor illnesses isn't scary, and the illness won't last long.

Ages: 2-5
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Surprise Garden by Zoe Hall

Illustrated by Shari Halpern. 32 pages. Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 1998.

Three children plant unmarked seeds, water their garden, and wait for surprises to grow. They find vegetables, a watermelon, and a sunflower. The children enjoy picking the vegetables and eating them at a party. There is no explicit information about nutrition, but the story and the bright illustrations create a sense of anticipation about the vegetables. An afterword shows the different kinds of seeds and the vegetables they grew into.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Two Strikes, Four Eyes by Ned Delaney

32 pages. Houghton Mifflin, 1976.

Toby is a nearsighted mouse who loves baseball. Afraid of being called "Sissy" or "Four Eyes" if he's seen wearing his glasses, he won't wear them in front of his teammates, and instead they tease him about his poor playing. When he eventually plays with his glasses, he wins the championship game for his team. His teammates ask him why he never wore his glasses before, and finally appreciate him. Children will understand that if you can't see, but should be able to, it doesn't matter how you look - it just isn't worth it.

Ages: 3-8
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, March 4, 2007

How I Named the Baby by Linda Shute

32 pages. Whitman, 1993.

One way that children can be involved in a new baby's life is to help think of baby names. James immediately asks to have this role when Momma tells him about her pregnancy. He also decides to make the baby a birthday picture during the last month of Momma's pregnancy. Because the baby is to be born in June, he includes the word "June" on the picture, along with images of the baby and the things he and the baby will share. This inspires the family to consider naming the baby June, if she's a girl. This is the one girl's name that everyone agrees is perfect -- and the baby is a girl. This book includes an appendix with popular names in several countries, and their meanings. This story will encourage children to participate in naming their new brother or sister, and by doing this, to have a special involvement in the baby's life from the beginning.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

How I Named the Baby

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Zax (in Sneetches and Other Stories) by Dr. Seuss

10 pages. Random House, 1989.

There's bound to be trouble when a North-Going Zax meets a South-Going Zax. Each one thinks the other is in his way, and each refuses to move aside, because that would mean going east or west, and neither is willing to do that. They yell at each other righteously, but neither one will move, so neither can go anywhere. Highways and cities are built, and the highway has to include an overpass over the Zax, who haven't budged an inch. This story shows children quite clearly, and with humor, how silly people look when they're stubborn.

Ages: 3-8
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Wobbly Tooth by Nancy Evans Cooney

Illustrated by Marylin Hafner. 32 pages. Putnam, 1978.

It can be frustrating to wait for a loose tooth to come out. Elizabeth Ann has one that just won't come out, not matter what she does. Even when she tries to forget about it, she can't help thinking about it. Finally, during a baseball game with friends, she is able to forget about it - and it comes out. Children will feel reassured that even a stubborn loose tooth will come out eventually.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Wobbly Tooth

Sunday, February 11, 2007

When I Feel Good About Myself by Cornelia Maude Spelman

Illustrated by Kathy Parkinson. 24 pages. Whitman, 2003.

A little guinea pig says that she feels good about herself. She feels loved, and she knows that it's OK to be just the way she is. Realizing that some things will be easy for her to do and others will be more difficult, as they are for all of us, she understands that her unique contributions are valuable. The little guinea pig likes to learn, and can try again if she makes a mistake. A foreword for parents and teachers is included. This book gives young children a strong positive message about self-acceptance.

Ages: 2-5
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, February 4, 2007

To Be a Drum by Evelyn Coleman

Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson. 32 pages. Whitman, 1998.

In this story, which is illustrated with vibrant multimedia images, a father poetically tells his son and daughter about the history of the African American people, including slavery, the civil rights movement, and accomplishments in the arts, sciences, and business. This story inspires pride in African American heritage.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue. 32 pages. Atheneum, 2001.

Joe, who is European American, tells about his best friend, John Henry, who is African American, in this story of the South under Jim Crow laws. The two boys love to swim, and to eat ice pops in the summer - but John Henry isn't allowed in the town poor or through the front door of the general store. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, the boys are excited because they can swim together at the town pool. When they get there, on the very first day, a crew is filling the pool with asphalt. John Henry understands that this is about racism, and is enraged and hurt. Joe suddenly becomes aware of all the things he can't do with his best friend. As the story ends, the two boys bravely walk together through the front door of the general store to buy an ice pop. A foreword briefly explains the Civil Rights Act and summarizes the author's experience of growing up in the 1960s as a European American child in the South. This story offers children an understanding of how racism hurts both oppressor and oppressed, and a glimpse of the courage that's needed to work against it.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A River Dream by Allen Say

32 pages. 1988.

Mark uses a dream of a fishing trip to help himself through a fever and to learn something about himself. His uncle sends him a box of fishing lures, which reminds him of a fishing trip they took together, and this inspires a dream that feels very real. In the dream, Mark imagines fishing with his uncle, very skillfully, and discovers that he wants to let fish go rather than kill them. After this dream, his fever breaks. This story offers children an example of how to use imagination to cope with being sick.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Harry's Box by Angela McAllister

Illustrated by Jenny Jones. 32 pages. Bloomsbury, 2003.

After Harry has helped his mother shop, the grocery box becomes all kinds of things in Harry's imagination: a shop, a lion's den, a pirate ship, an undersea cave, and a castle. Harry and his dog inhabit these imaginary worlds as a shopkeeper and a customer, an octopus and a dog-fish, and other characters. When Harry's mother, the king's foe, arrives at the castle, he decides to be friends with her, and puts the box behind the couch. There it becomes a cozy bed where Harry and his dog can dream of past and future imaginary worlds. This story shows children how to imbue an ordinary object with imagination.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: European

Sunday, January 7, 2007

ABC I Like Me by Nancy Carlson

32 pages. Viking Penguin, 1997.

The little pig from Nancy Carlson's book I Like Me and her mouse and frog friends use the letters of the alphabet to celebrate their good feelings about themselves. Each letter is related to a positive attribute; for example, A for awesome, B for brave, and C for cheerful. Children can use the characters' examples to appreciate their own positive qualities.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: non-human

About the Author

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Jacqueline Golding, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Pleasanton, California who works with children, teens, and adults. A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Golding earned her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Central Contra Costa County Child, Adolescent, and Family Mental Health Service in Concord, California. She holds an appointment as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco and has published over 100 articles in scientific and professional journals on topics such as trauma, depression, and cultural issues in mental health. Dr. Golding is represented by the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.

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