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, 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

About the Author

My photo
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.

Blog Archive