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.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sorry by Jean Van Leeuwen

Illustrated by Brad Sneed. 32 p., Phyllis Fogelman Books, 2001.

Two brothers, Ebenezer and Obadiah, live and farm contentedly together until one day, Obadiah comments that there are lumps in the oatmeal that Ebenezer made. Ebenezer overturns the bowl of oatmeal on his brother's head. After many days of silence, Obadiah cuts their house in half and hauls his half over to the next hill. Each brother farms alone, and each eventually marries and has children, and then grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren. They continue to think of each other, but they don't communicate directly. Eventually, two of their great-grandsons, Nathaniel and Luther, encounter each other at the wall that the brothers built to separate their farms. At first, they're hostile, but then, Nathaniel says, "Sorry." They find that they can become friends - after three generations of separation over a bowl of oatmeal. The illustrations have a silly quality that mirrors the silliness of the brothers' stubbornness. Kids will get a clear picture of the way stubbornness can affect relationships way out of proportion to whatever they were stubborn about to begin with.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Night by Hyewon Yum

34 p., Frances Foster/Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2008.

Sometimes imagination can provide a way to calm yourself at a stressful time. As this wordless story begins, a girl looks angry at dinner and goes to bed. The images suggest that her mother is angry with her. In the girl's dreams, her teddy bear (who becomes as big as a bear) takes her to a forest where they dance with foxes, the bear catches fish, and they enjoy a campfire before going to sleep. The girl wakes up at home with her now normal-sized teddy bear beside her. She happily gets a hug from her mother. She has used her imagination, in the form of a dream, to resolve her anger and make her relationship with her mother available to her again. The linocut illustrations have an almost shadowy quality that adds to the impression of witnessing a dream. Children can take from this story a sense of the calming power of imagination.

Ages: 3-6
Cultural Context: Asian

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The House of Joyful Living by Roni Schotter

Illustrated by Terry Widener. 32 p., Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008.

When a new baby comes into the family, it's hard to give up being a special only child. This is a little girl’s struggle in this story that's genuinely empathic with the experience of being a child. The girl lives in an apartment building full of friendly neighbors who share their diverse cultural traditions and a common value of helping others. This building, the House of Joyful Living, has a rooftop garden where they gather to talk, eat, and listen to music, and once a year, to have a party. The girl feels as if she's on top of the world on the rooftop, with not only her parents, but all the other "great, good" adults, to herself. The girl knows her mother is pregnant, but for most of the story, she pushes aside this knowledge. When a neighbor makes a special gift for Mama and the baby, the girl can't ignore this any longer, and she can't help worrying that the baby will consume all her parents' attention. She doesn't want to share; she doesn't want to lose the feeling of being special. When Mama and Papa comfort her, she can feel special again, and she begins to understand that the baby could be jealous of her. She finds herself feeling sorry for the baby, who is missing so much of her own wonderful experiences. And this inspires a sense of generosity toward the baby. Through her parents' loving responses, she's able to transform her hurt and envy into a secure sense of care and compassion. This story can help children find that care and compassion in themselves.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Baa-Choo! by Sarah Weeks

Illustrated by Jane Manning. 32 p., HarperCollins, 2006.

Sam the lamb has a cold, and feels a sneeze coming on - but he just can't quite sneeze. His barnyard friends try lots of ways to help, but the sneeze just won't happen. Finally, Franny Nannygoat and her kid kick up enough dust to get the sneeze going, and when they do, it's a huge one. With its infectious rhymes and rhythms, this story will help kids laugh at the hassles of having a cold.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn

Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. 40 p., Whitman, 1995.

This remarkable and inspiring story is based on events that occurred in Billings, Montana, in December, 1993. As the story begins, vandals attack the home of Isaac Schnitzer and his parents. They are Jewish, and are displaying menorahs in the windows in celebration of Hanukkah. The community holds a meeting to address this hate crime. At this meeting, Ms. MacDonald tells the legend of King Christian of Denmark. In this legend, when the Nazis force Jews to wear stars, King Christian wears a star also, inspiring many other Danes to do likewise. Ms. MacDonald suggests that like the Danes, all the citizens of Billings can display menorahs. Churches work together to implement this plan. The newspaper publishes a picture of a menorah for people to put in their windows. Meanwhile, Isaac's teacher holds a productive discussion of difference, prejudice, and bullying. Christian children and adults empathize with the Jews, imagining what they would experience if someone vandalized their homes because they were displaying Christmas decorations. Isaac comes to a new sense of pride in his Jewish identity. And although it takes time, as the people of Billings work together to fight hate, the violence eventually stops. Illustrated with oil paintings that effectively convey a sense of light in the darkness, this moving story imparts powerful lessons about diversity, unity, and courage. Dr. Cohn has also written a play based on this story that can be performed by children (see www.papercandles.com).

Ages: 8-14
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brave Ben by Mathilde Stein

Illustrated by Mies van Hout. 26 p., Front Street Lemniscaat, 2006.

Fearful children might not be aware of their internal resources. Such is the case for Ben, who thinks of himself as a coward because he doesn't assert himself, feels self-conscious, and fears spooks under his bed. Because he thinks he needs help - magical help - he makes an appointment with a magic tree. The tree tells him that it's in a scary forest, but that the creepy creatures there are harmless. So when Ben meets a dragon, a spider bigger than he is, and a witch on his way to his appointment, he asserts his right to be in the forest, and to his surprise, each creature responds cordially. When he finally reaches the tree, he tells Ben that he is already less afraid. Ben happily realizes that he can do all the things he'd originally thought he couldn't do. Illustrated with beautiful pastel art, this story shows children how to find and make use of the courage inside them.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: European

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Doo-Wop Pop by Roni Schotter

Illustrated by Bryan Collier. 32 p., Amistad, 2008.

Sometimes when you're shy, what helps the most is learning to trust yourself. In this story, Elijah Earl learns to trust his own sense of the music he hears in the world all around him - the sounds of footsteps, laughter, turning pages and folding paper, dribbling basketballs, a clock ticking. His school janitor, nicknamed Doo-Wop Pop because of the way he sings and dances as he works, is the source of this wisdom. He brings together five shy children, encouraging them to come out of their shells by making music and teaching them to dance and to find music in everyday sounds. To Elijah Earl's delight, the group sounds good together, and teachers and kids applaud when they sing in the stairwell. And, of course, he has four new friends. The story ends with a stage performance, as Elijah Earl acknowledges both the reality of the group's stage fright and his simultaneous experience that in spite of this, they sing well. The irresistibly energetic rhythms and rhymes of the text draw readers into the story ("He says he was quite the sight! He wore a suit so gleaming white, some folks said it was made of moonlight"). This gives readers some of what Doo-Wop Pop gives the kids: a subjective sense of the joy of sounds. The textured, multilayered illustrations help to convey the children's emotions and experiences. Elijah Earl's example can help kids to find their own voice, and in doing this, to move through shyness in a solid and profound way.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: African American

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Angelina's Island by Jeanette Winter

32 p., Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.

Moving to a new country can feel abrupt and discontinuous. This is Angelina's experience when her family moves from Jamaica to New York City. New York seems gray, cold, and lonely to her, and in her dreams, she returns to the warm sun and vibrant colors of Jamaica – vividly represented in the colorful illustrations – and to her old friends and her grandmother. One of Angelina's happy memories is of dancing at Carnival with her friends. When she has the opportunity to participate in a Carnival parade in New York, she prepares for it, all the while feeling that it won't make up for missing Jamaica. But when the parade music begins, Angelina experiences this as a part of home. Through her participation in the parade, she can feel that she's at home in New York. With Angelina, children will see that it's possible to make connections between an old home and a new one - to bring the old home to the new - and in doing this, to feel at home in a new place.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: Afro-Caribbean

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Brothers and Sisters by Laura Dwight

34 p., Star Bright, 2005.

In this book, children introduce themselves and their siblings. Many of the children have disabilities: deafness/hearing impairment, blindness, congenital amputation, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and Asperger's syndrome. The narrating child explains in simple language what the disability is and describes some of the family's experiences - some directly related to the disability, some not. A glossary describes the disabilities, and a resource list is included. Illustrated with color photographs that capture the children's warm relationships, this book normalizes, informs, and promotes acceptance.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, October 26, 2008

How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz

32 p., Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008.

War may involve both emigration and deprivation, as it does in this story based on the author's childhood experiences during World War II. During wartime, a boy and his parents flee to a new, different country where they are chronically hungry. One day, instead of coming home from the bazaar with food, his father disappoints the boy and his mother by coming home with a map. But in spite of himself, the boy finds himself drawn in by the map, and before he knows it, he's imaginatively transported to fascinating faraway places, some of which offer him trees full of ripe fruit. This story celebrates the power of imagination to sustain us in times of devastation.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Love It When You Smile by Sam McBratney

Illustrated by Charles Fuge. 26 p., HarperCollins, 2006.

When you feel irritable, sometimes you can't force yourself to be happy - it has to happen by itself. Little Roo wakes up grumpy one morning, and his mother tries all kinds of things to get him to smile, but he just doesn't feel like smiling. So she suggests that they go look for something to eat. Roo isn't hungry, but he reluctantly gets into his mom's pouch, and off they go. Mom isn't paying good attention to where she's going, and falls into a big hole full of mud. When Roo sees his wet, muddy mother, he can't help smiling. Finally, his grumpy mood is broken. With Roo, children will feel validated in not responding when someone tries to force a change in their mood - and will see that grumpiness doesn't have to last forever.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Germs Are Not for Sharing by Elizabeth Verdick

Illustrated by Marieka Heinlen. 14 p., Free Spirit, 2006.

We teach children that it's important to share, but we don't want them to share germs. In simple, accessible language and pictures, this book tells kids how to avoid sharing germs by explaining what to do when they sneeze, cough, or drop food on the floor, and how and when to wash their hands. It also encourages children to blow kisses instead of giving them directly when they're sick. An afterword for parents and caregivers gives clear, practical suggestions for teaching toddlers how to avoid contagion. The only change I'd make would be to teach "Catch that cough/sneeze" instead of "Cover it up," because not only does it sound more fun, but also, "Cover it up" could potentially suggest shame. With this friendly, attractive board book, the youngest children will be empowered to help protect their health and the health of people around them.

Ages: 1-3
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, October 5, 2008

One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads by Johnny Valentine

Illustrated by Melody Sarecky. 32 p., Alyson, 1994.

Beginning with a take-off on Dr. Seuss's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, this story introduces the possibility of blue dads. A little girl doubts this until she meets a boy named Lou who has two blue dads. Lou tells the girl that his dads do all sorts of ordinary things, asking, "Did you think that they simply would stop being dads, just because they are blue?" The girl asks how Lou's dads became blue - perhaps at some point they went through the laundry with a blue pen? Lou reacts as if the questions are strange - his dads have always been blue, "well - because they are blue." It's being blue that seems "different" in this story, not being gay. The message is clear that dads don't stop being dads because they're gay, any more than they would because they were blue. In a humorous, upbeat style, this story offers appreciation for diverse families' similarities.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Monday, September 29, 2008

Allie's Basketball Dream by Barbara Barber

Illustrated by Darryl Ligasan. 32 p., Lee and Low, 1996.

Allie dreams of being a professional basketball player. Her father gives her a basketball, but when she first tries shooting baskets, kids laugh at her. When she invites friends to play basketball with her, girls say that they don't know how, or suggest jump rope instead, and boys scoff at the idea of playing with a girl, or imply that she needs a ball that's smaller and lighter. Allie doesn't buy any of this. When a girl quotes her brother as saying that basketball is for boys, she tells her that he's wrong, and when a boy says girls shouldn't play basketball, Allie tells about her female cousin who has won trophies in high school basketball. All this time, Allie's practicing, and starts getting baskets. Her friends join in, and her father returns to cheer for her. Allie is positive role model of determination in the face of gender prejudice.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Peg Leg Peke by Brie Spangler

40 p., Knopf, 2008.

When you're injured, sometimes you need some imagination and a comforting blankie. In this story, an unseen character interviews a cute little Pekingese puppy who has a boo-boo - a broken leg. The puppy enthusiastically accepts the suggestion that s/he could be a pirate with that peg leg, but although s/he has a great time as a pirate, the boo-boo still hurts. The unseen character encourages the puppy to find something that could make him/her feel better. The puppy has an inspiration: a treasure would be just the thing! After a suspenseful search, the puppy finds his/her blankie in a treasure chest, and is finally all better. The illustrations are simple, expressive, and charming, and recall picture books from a much earlier time. Children will not only enjoy the puppy's adventures, but also appreciate the possibilities of using imagination and seeking comfort to cope with injury.

Ages: 3-6
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Earthquake by Milly Lee

Illustrated by Yangsook Choi. 32 p., Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

A girl and her family flee San Francisco's Chinatown during the 1906 earthquake and fires. They quickly pack all that they can carry in a cart, and leave their home for a nearby square, where many neighbors have gathered. Because of the fires, a police officer directs them to Golden Gate Park, a difficulty journey through the city. The children help by clearing a path through the rubble as their father pulls the cart. According to the afterword (which indicates that the girl in the story is the author's mother), their mother and grandmother are unable to walk for any substantial distance because their feet had been bound. People, dogs, cats, and horses are frightened. Finally, the family finds safety at a tent city in Golden Gate Park. Children will feel that others have been through disasters, too, and will understand that families can be safe when they stick together and help each other, even if it's hard.

Ages: 5-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Worst Best Friend by Alexis O'Neill

Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. 32 p., Scholastic, 2008.

Children may understand friendship as doing things together. While companionship can be an important part of friendship, what does friendship really mean? In this story, Conrad and Mike find out. The boys are best friends until they meet Victor. Conrad welcomes Victor, seeing him as "awesome," although it's obvious to readers that Victor is very full of himself and overly competitive, too. Suddenly, Conrad and Victor are best friends, and Mike is left out. When Mike invites kids to play kickball, Victor's competitiveness permeates the playground. Victor only picks the biggest kids, because he only cares about winning. He doesn't pick his "best friend," Conrad, because Conrad isn't big. But Mike, a true friend, picks Conrad. Mike and Conrad's team loses, but that doesn't matter, because their friendship is restored. These guys have wonderful communication skills - not only does Mike acknowledge his own feelings to himself, but also, Conrad acknowledges that he's been a bad friend. And they have an irresistible special greeting for each other. The colorful, high-energy illustrations also contain some wonderful jokes - for example, Mean Jean from The Recess Queen is shown reading a book called How To Be a Best Best Friend, and the school cafeteria is serving humble pie. Without even noticing it, kids will move from an incomplete view of what friendship means to a richer, more differentiated one.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Friendly Four by Eloise Greenfield

Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. 48 p., HarperCollins, 2006.

Even when life seems dull and discouraging, there are possibilities for friendship. Drummond (known as Drum) starts his summer bored. There are no other kids his age on his block, and his baby brother's needs always seem to take precedence over his. But soon Dorene, who is just his size, moves into the neighborhood, and they play together. When Louis, who is also their age, moves in, they welcome him. And Dorene's cousin, Rae, comes to spend the summer. The four children run on the playground, tell stories, and collaboratively create a wonderful make-believe town where they act out stories. When it's almost time for school to start, they celebrate the connections they've formed, and together say goodbye to summer. The book is itself written as a play, encouraging children to act out its story, and the illustrations are full of motion and energy. The families are diverse in their composition. When children are sad to see their summer fun end, they'll feel empathy from this story, along with support in maintaining the connections that were part of summer.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: African American

Sunday, August 24, 2008

As Good As Anybody by Richard Michelson

Illustrated by Raul Colón. 40 pages. Random, 2008.

Even people who may seem different have common experiences and can work together to end prejudice. This book tells the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. They experience many parallel prejudices, King in the segregated American south, and Heschel in Nazi-era Germany. But both have parents who teach them that they are "as good as anybody," and both have hope that "in the next world, people everywhere will live together in peace." Both speak out for equality. After moving to the United States, Heschel joins King's famous march from Montgomery to Selma. In a moving scene, they join hands - White and Black, Jew and Christian. Symbolizing a diverse alliance in support of equality, they are unstoppable. This story can help children understand both common experiences across seemingly different groups and the value of working together to end discrimination.

Ages: 6-10
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, August 17, 2008

When Mommy is Sick by Ferne Sherkin-Langer

Illustrated by Kay Life. 24 pages. Whitman, 1995.

A girl's Mommy has frequent hospitalizations. When Mommy is in the hospital, the girl feels sad, things just don't seem right, and she doesn't want to do much at school. Her teacher is understanding, and she has other adults to take care of her - Daddy, a babysitter, and a friend's mommy. The girl worries that her misbehavior might have caused Mommy's illness, that Mommy might never come home, and that her hugs might hurt Mommy, and she resents the unfairness of Mommy's illness. Daddy reassures her. The girl eagerly anticipates visits to Mommy at the hospital - although it's painful to end them - and Mommy's return home. Mommy has to rest for a week when she returns, but she finally takes her daughter to the playground, and then things feel right again. This story validates children's feelings about a parent's illness and offers hope for recovery.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes.

32 pages. Greenwillow, 1988.

Chester (a mouse) always does things his way, from the way he cuts his sandwiches to the way he ties his shoes. He and his best friend, Wilson, are inseparable, and have all the same tastes and preferences. When Lilly moves into the neighborhood, they can't help noticing that she does things in her own unique way. They decide that she's weird, and avoid her. But when Lilly saves them from a group of bullies, they become friends. They find that they have both differences (for example, in the ways they cut their sandwiches) and similarities (for example, they all have night lights). When Chester and Wilson try doing things Lilly's way, they find that they enjoy them. They teach her some of their ways, too. The three friends become inseparable. Children will see that even kids who have very strong feelings about doing things a certain way can be comfortable making room in their lives for new ways to do things.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Eagle Eyes: A Child's Guide to Paying Attention by Jeanne Gehret

Illustrated by Susan Covert. 40 pages. Verbal Images Press, 1996.

When kids have ADHD, they and others around them can see them as clumsy and annoying, and they may forget to do homework or to turn it in. Because of experiences like these, Ben feels bad about himself. His father takes him to Dr. Lawson, who explains that he has "Attention Deficit Disorder," which he describes as a chemical imbalance affecting his control of his behaviors and thoughts, adding "my thoughts run ahead of me." Ben's father explains that he has eagle eyes, noticing everything. "But eagles know when to stop looking around and zoom in on their prey. Me, I just keep noticing more things and miss my catch." Dad helps Ben to make up a song that helps him get ready for school in the morning, and Mom gives him relaxing bedtime music. Ben also learns to read people's facial expressions and use them to change his behavior. And Ben's eagle eyes are a help when his father is injured while hiking - Ben is the only one who knows the way to the ranger station, where he can get help. This helps Ben to appreciate himself. A parent resource guide gives ideas about parenting children who have ADHD. With Ben, children can learn to cope with the challenges of ADHD and feel good about themselves.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Telling Isn't Tattling by Kathryn Hammerseng

Illustrated by Dave Garbot. 31 pages. Parenting Press, 1995.

The first page of this book explains the difference between tattling and telling. The following pages offer 13 vignettes, followed by a question about whether a character was tattling or telling. The clear implication is that tattling is not appropriate, but telling is not only appropriate, but necessary. The vignettes include abusive or potentially abusive situations such as one in which a mom asks her daughter not to tell about dad's violence toward mom, one in which a boy asks a girl to pull her pants down, one in which a girl's dad's (male) friend suggests that he touch her all over, and one in which a stranger promises children ice cream if they get into his car. The author explains that it's appropriate for children to tell in these situations. This book will help children understand when they should tell a trusted adult, which could help avert otherwise dangerous situations.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle

Illustrated by Mike Gordon and Carl Gordon. 32 pages. Rising Moon, 2003.

A little girl asks her Mommy whether princesses wear hiking boots, and Mommy responds with a rhyming yes. Princesses ride bikes, climb trees, play in puddles, sand, and dirt, and even do chores and follow rules. Princesses even snort when they laugh sometimes, snore, and have bad days when they cry and fuss. The girl asks her Mommy whether princesses are at all like her, and Mommy invites her to look inside herself for the answer. The last page has a mirror for the reader to see a princess. This story lets girls know that they can be any kind of princess they want to be - and lets boys know that princesses need not be restricted in the ways they might assume.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Do Not Open by Brinton Turkle

32 pages. Dutton, 1981.

Unlike her cat, Captain Kidd, Miss Moody isn't afraid of storms; all of her favorite possessions were washed up on the beach after a storm. She isn't even scared of a monster in a bottle who starts wars and causes nightmares. In fact, she tricks the monster into non-existence (with help from Captain Kidd), and gets what she wants most - her clock begins to work. Timid children may find the illustrations of the monster too scary. For those who don't, Miss Moody is a good role model for staying confident and keeping your wits about you in scary situations.

Ages: 5-8
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill

Illustrated by Charles Fuge. 22 pages. Sterling Publishing Company, 2001.

A little wombat is sometimes in the mood to curl up small and quiet, other times to jump or scream and make noise; sometimes to walk or run around, other times to be very still; and still other times, to make messes or silly faces. The end of the day is a special time for curling up in a cozy place. Illustrations are bright and exuberant. Although this rhyming book doesn't identify emotions by name, it addresses awareness of inner states on a less verbal level, encouraging a healthy sense of self-observation and self-acceptance.

Ages: 1-3
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm Like You, You're Like Me by Cindy Gainer

44 pages. Free Spirit, 1998.

Kids are similar in many ways and different in many others, including age, family size, neighborhood, school, holidays and celebrations, skills and abilities; color of hair, eyes, and skin; height, and hair texture. Kids affirm that they like their own body and appearance, and that other kids' bodies are "just right" for them. They show readers how to work and play cooperatively and to communicate acceptance, and they encourage readers to listen to one another, to try to understand one another, and to be ask kind as they can be. This book communicates a positive sense of respect for differences and gives clear examples of ways to get along with other kids.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Some Helpful Tips for a Better World and a Happier Life by Rebecca Doughty

40 pages. Random, 2008.

This sweet book does just what it promises, beginning with the tip, "Begin each day by making funny faces in the mirror." It encourages joy through both concrete behaviors like making cupcakes, eating vegetables, reading, dancing, and making music and art; and more abstract ones like experimentation, sharing troubles with someone close, and being yourself. The deceptively childlike illustrations help convey a sense of wonder and delight. When a child is feeling overwhelmed, this book can provide a welcome sense of reassurance and grounding in everyday life.

Ages: 3 and up
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Always With You by Ruth Vander Zee

Illustrated by Ronald Himler. 32 pages. Eerdmans, 2008.

Even when severely traumatized, children can find hope by keeping with them someone they have lost. In this deeply moving book, based on a true story, four-year-old Kim’s mama dies when their village in Vietnam is bombed. She whispers her last words to Kim: “Don’t be afraid … I will always be with you.” Partially blinded and left for dead, Kim reminds herself of her mama’s words. Eventually, American soldiers find her and take her to an orphanage, where she lives for five years. In the care of loving foster parents there, she is able to make friends, and to reclaim her capacities to learn and to play. Kim uses play as well as words to keep her mama’s love with her. Her foster parents acknowledge the pain of her loss. Along with their reassurance, the memory of her mama’s words allows her to cope with living in a terrifying world. For children who have sustained terrible losses, Kim’s story can serve as a powerful source of hope.

Ages: 8-12
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tom Cat by Noah Woods

32 pages. Random, 2004.

Sometimes kids need support around accepting their differences so that they can be themselves. Tom, a cat, is "a little different" from birth. He's scared of mice, climbs trees, builds nests, hangs upside down, and wallows in the mud. Rather than meowing, he quacks, moos, and barks. His parents tend to emphasize his "differentness" at first, telling him what cats do. But soon they begin to tell him that he really is a cat, in spite of his speculations that he might be a chipmunk or a kangaroo. When they finally tell him that they love him no matter who he is, he finds himself meowing - and enjoying it so much that he never wants to quack or moo again. Once he's reassured that his parents love him even if he stretches the boundaries of being a cat, he's free to be himself. This story may help children find a sense of perspective about feeling different.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Potty! by Mylo Freeman

26 pages. Tricycle Press, 2002.

As this story opens, a potty sits in the jungle. A note next to the potty says, "'Only the best bottom of all will fit on this potty.'" Various animals try the potty, but none of their bottoms fit on it. The gorilla puts it on his or her head. When the tortoise is taking a turn, the other animals leave for a while. When they return, a boy is on the potty. The animals agree that he has "the best bottom of all." As the story ends, author asks the reader, "Does your bottom fit on the potty?" This story has the potential to tempt reluctant toddlers to try the potty.

Ages: 1-3
Cultural Context: African

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mommy's Lap by Ruth Horowitz

Illustrated by Henri Sorensen. 24 pages. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1993.

Sophie loves being in Mommy's lap, a very special place. When Mommy becomes pregnant, there is less room in her lap and she is generally less available to Sophie and somewhat preoccupied with the new baby. Sophie tolerates this unhappily. When baby Sam is born, Mommy immediately finds room for both Sam and Sophie on her lap -- and when she holds Sam herself, Sophie learns that her own lap is a wonderful place. This story helps children understand that their mother's preoccupation during pregnancy is temporary, and that even though things will never be the same when a new baby is born, their relationship with their mother isn't just diminished, it's more differentiated and complex, through the child's identification with her.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn

Illustrated by Barbara Leonard Gibson. 32 pages. Tanglewood, 2006.

When children have a younger sibling, they may worry that they won't be special to their parents any more, and as a result, won't get enough love. In this sequel to The Kissing Hand, Chester the raccoon has a little brother, Ronny, who takes his things, follows him around, pulls his tail, and generally annoys him. When Chester's mother reassures him with a Kissing Hand, he's happy because he knows that she loves him. But when she gives Ronny a Kissing Hand, he's shocked - he thinks she's given Ronny his (Chester’s) Kissing Hand. He worries that she doesn't have enough Kissing Hands for both young raccoons. Patiently, Mrs. Raccoon reassures Chester by telling a story in which the endless light of the sun resembles her endless love for the two of them. But what's most reassuring of all is the extra Kissing Hand she gives Chester to keep in his pocket in case he ever needs it - to meet the special needs of a big brother. With Chester, older siblings will learn to maintain their sense of themselves as special and loved.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard

Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. 26 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2000.

Set in Reconstruction-era Tennessee, this book tells the story of Virgie, the youngest in a family that includes six brothers. She wants to go to school with her brothers, but they tell her she's not strong enough to tolerate the seven-mile walk, she'd be unable to be without Mama when they stay at school all week, and besides, school is unnecessary for girls. Her brother C.C. supports her, and their parents decide that, like other free people, she will go to school. She not only survives the trip, but survives it cheerfully, and invents strategies for getting through the scary woods. She plans to tell their parents all about school so as to share her learning with them. An afterword describes the consequences of prohibiting African American slaves from learning to read, and explains the story's origin in events that occurred in the author's family. Virgie is a wonderful role model in her resistance to discrimination based on both gender and cultural background.

Ages: 6-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Amos and Boris by William Steig

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971.

Amos is a mouse who lives on the beach. Because he wonders about other lands across the ocean, he builds a boat and sets sail. He has a wonderful time until he falls off the boat and can't get back aboard. A whale named Boris rescues Amos and takes him home, and the two become close friends. They realize that although they can't live in the same place, they can still be friends and will always remember each other. Many years later, Boris is washed ashore in a storm, and Amos finds him. Boris doesn't think Amos can help him, but Amos brings two elephants who push Boris back into the water. Although it's painful for them to part again, they know they'll always be in each other's hearts. This story shows children how acts of kindness can lead to deep and long-lasting friendship, and how even friends who are apart can feel close to each other.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sassafras by Audrey Penn

Illustrated by Ruth E. Harper. 32 pages. Tanglewood Books, 1995.

Sassafras (a skunk) wants to hide from his friends because he is embarrassed by the possibility that he might smell bad. The wise old skunk Poppy explains to Sassafras that the stink is a way for skunks to protect themselves. When a stranger frightens the animals, Sassafras sprays it. The stranger turns out to be a gray fox who just wanted to play with them – and who is embarrassed by the plainness of her fur. Sassafras is able to share with her the lesson he's learned from Poppy, and to accept himself as a result. This story will help encourage children to accept even the "stinky" parts of themselves.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tom Mouse by Ursula LeGuin

Illustrated by Julie Downing. 40 pages. Roaring Brook, 2002.

Tom Mouse leaves his home to travel the world on trains. He's mostly excited, although lonely and scared at times. He ends up sharing a compartment with Ms. Powers. He's careful not to let her see him, because he worries that she'll scream and he'll be thrown off the train. When she does find him, she doesn't scream - she offers him more food. She seems to understand him, and they become friends. He accepts her invitation to travel with him in her coat pocket. Although told from Tom's point of view, rather than Ms. Powers', this story might be a good example of putting aside automatic reactions and prejudices to open the possibility of finding a friend.

Ages: 6-10
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pepito the Brave by Scott Beck

32 p. Dutton, 2001.

Pepito is a little bird who is afraid to fly because he is afraid of heights. When it's time to leave the nest, he climbs down the tree and, following the advice of other animals, he runs, hops, swims, and tunnels until he reaches the tree where his brothers and sisters have flown. They tell him that if he is brave enough to do all it took him to get there, he must have enough courage to fly. Hearing this, he flies. With Pepito, children can use this experience to consider possibly unacknowledged sources of their own courage.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: N/A

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bernard Goes To School by Joan Elizabeth Goodman

Illustrated by Dominic Catalano. 32 pages. Boyds Mills Press, 2001.

As soon as Bernard (a little elephant) arrives for his first day of preschool with his Papa, Mama, and Grandma, he announces that it's time to leave. He is very unresponsive to suggestions to play with various toys and other children, but finally, reluctantly agrees to help his teacher feed the fish. The teacher is able to engage him with another elephant-child around this activity. After this, when Bernard says it's time to leave, he means that it's time for Papa, Mama, and Grandma to go home. Papa and Mama assure him that they will always come back, and he assures them that he'll be right there. This story will help children who hesitate to go to school see that even others who feel the same way can become comfortable there.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer

Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli. 40 pages. Schwartz and Wade, 2008.

Imagination can feel like a world apart, like the lonely girl in this story who lives in a magical castle inside a glass globe in a museum. She dreams of children coming to visit her. She even dreams that the child reader comes to visit her - and on one page, there's a place for the reader to put a picture of him- or herself, so that the girl in the story won't have to miss him or her. The multimedia illustrations, which incorporate painting, clay models, photography, and digital media, convey the dreamlike quality of this tale. Children can use this story as a reminder to stay connected with the world of imagination.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens

34 pages. Harcourt Brace, 1995.

A poor, but clever, hare strikes a deal with a wealthy, lazy bear to plant vegetables in the bear's field. Each season, the bear gets to choose the tops or bottoms of the vegetables, and each year, gets the less useful part of the plant. When the bear finally chooses both tops and bottoms, the hare plants corn. The hare gives the bear the tassels at the top and the roots at the bottom -- and keeps the ears of corn. Bear learns from this to plant and harvest his own vegetables. Like many other books on this topic, this one has no explicit nutritional information, but is a fun story in which vegetables play an important role.

Ages: 3-7
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of "Brave Bessie" Coleman by Reeve Lindbergh

Illustrated by Pamela Paparone. 26 pages. Candlewick, 1996.

This rhyming story is a biography of Bessie Coleman, who in 1921 became the first licensed Black aviator in the world. Although people told her she could never fly because she was female and of African descent, she followed her passion learned to fly in France, returning to the United States as a stunt flier and lecturer. She died during an air show, but her life left an inspiring message about commitment to a dream in spite of prejudice.

Ages: 5-9
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Happy Birthday to You by Dr Seuss

55 pages. Random House, 1959.

A birthday is a wonderful occasion to celebrate a child's joy in being who she or he is, an idea reflected in the birthday customs of the imaginary land of Katroo. Accompanied by the Birthday Bird, the birthday child enjoys unlimited snacks, wondrous flowers, a delicious lunch followed by a swim, a new pet, and finally, a party in a special palace, with live music, fish who spell out "Happy Birthday," and a spectacular cake. Finally, the Birthday Bird flies the child home to bed. One special birthday ritual is that the child shouts to the world that he or she likes him- or herself, and there are several wonderful statements about being glad to be one's own self. A joyful celebration of the uniqueness and value of each individual, this book is perfect as a birthday present.

Ages: 3-9
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Odd Velvet by Mary E. Whitcomb

Illustrated by Tara Calahan King. 26 pages. Chronicle Books, 1998.

A girl named Velvet does things differently from her kindergarten or first-grade classmates, and they avoid her until she wins the class art contest. After this, the things she says and does start to make sense to the other children. Much of what makes her seem odd is that she is clearly poorer than her classmates, and in learning to accept her, they discover that it's possible to have fun with less money. Ultimately, her way of doing things, although different, becomes one of many possible ways, rather than being "odd." Children will understand that they need not be ashamed of being "different" or having less money, even though other kids might think so at first.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The ABC's of Asthma: An Asthma Alphabet Book for Kids of All Ages by Kim Gosselin

Illustrated by Terry Ravanelli. 34 p., JayJo Books, LLC, 1998.

Each letter of the alphabet is related to an aspect of asthma; for example, B for bronchial tubes. In addition to describing various aspects of care for asthma, and emphasizing the importance of medical attention, this book includes statements that a child who has asthma is "just a regular kid," that asthma is not contagious, and that sometimes kids have feelings about having asthma and that talking about those feelings can help kids feel better. Children will understand asthma and its treatment better, and those who have asthma will feel self-acceptance around it.

Ages: 3-10
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Matthew and Tilly by Rebecca C. Jones

Illustrated by Beth Peck. 32 pages. Puffin, 1991.

Matthew and Tilly are friends who do almost everything together. Occasionally, though, they get tired of each other. Once, Matthew accidentally breaks Tilly's crayon, and they argue. Matthew stomps off. Each plays by him- or herself, telling him- or herself that it's more fun this way, but also thinking that it would be more fun with another person. They think of each other at the same time, and each looks to see what the other is doing. Matthew apologizes, Tilly apologizes, and they're together again. This story demonstrates to children that friends may argue, but they can still value each other, and can make up.

Ages: 4-8
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest

Illustrated by Anita Jeram. 32 pages. Candlewick, 2001.

A secure relationship can be just what's needed in a scary situation. On a dark, stormy night, Mrs. Bear puts little bear Sam to bed. In what comes across as a regular, comforting ritual, she reads him his favorite story, tucks him in, gives him his stuffed animals, drinks a glass of milk with him, and finally gives him a goodnight kiss. In spite of pouring rain and howling wind outside, Sam goes to sleep, comfortable and cozy. This story shows children that a scary situation is not so scary when you face it with an adult who really knows what you need.

Ages: 0-4
Cultural Context: non-human

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Front Hall Carpet by Nicholas Heller

24 pages. Greenwillow, 1990.

All you need is a rug to create an imaginary world. In one preschool- or early school-age girl's house, the floor covering in each room inspires a different game or make-believe play. The girl goes canoeing on the river of a blue front hall rug, picnics under a cherry tree on a green dining room rug, rules a kingdom on the multicolored kitchen tile floor, explores a frozen land on the back of a polar bear (otherwise known as a shaggy, white living room rug), steps only on certain dots on the spotted rug in her parents' room, and winds her way through the maze on the rug in her room. (The rug maze is especially useful for confusing any monsters who might come in at night). The girl expresses openness to including another in her imaginary world. This story shows kids how to use imagination to transform ordinary objects.

Ages: 2-5
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund

32 p., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1958.

In this classic book, a friend can be a person, an animal, or even a tree, a brook, or the wind. According to the author, everyone has a friend, although it isn't always obvious. Unlike stories that focus on the quality of relationships between friends, this book is more focused on the ways in which people can feel liked, even when they don't have a human friend.

Ages: 4-7
Cultural Context: European American

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell

32 pages. Walker, 2001.

Tim visits his kindergarten before starting school. He visits all the different parts of the classroom: the science center, the art center, and so on. He anticipates learning about how plants and animals grow, making art, learning to count, read, write, tell time, and cook. He meets a new classmate. At first Tim experiences the school and his classroom as big, but once he's gotten to know the classroom, it feels just right. This story offers kids an opportunity to join Tim in anticipating the fun of kindergarten. Children who feel a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of going to the "big school" will be reassured that if it can stop seeming so big to Tim, it can for them too.

Ages: 3-6
Cultural Context: multicultural

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Mine! by Mathilde Stein

Illustrated by Mies van Hout. 24 pages. Lemniscaat, 2006.

Children who struggle to share may benefit from getting to know a more relaxed side of themselves – a part of themselves who resembles Charlotte in this story. Charlotte finds a little ghost in her room, and all the ghost will say is "Mine!" Charlotte always responds reasonably, showing the ghost ways that they can share (he can stay in her bed for a sleepover, but has to move over to make room for her and her bear) or showing him the disadvantages to him of not sharing (if he eats all the bread and jam, he won't have room for pie). When Charlotte refuses to play with the ghost because he doesn't know how to play cooperatively, he feels sad. He really does want to play with her. Charlotte teaches him games. The ghost tries to share, and isn't perfect at first. By the end of the day, they're working together toward a common goal - a meal of pancakes. But at dinnertime, a man from a nearby castle comes looking for a runaway ghost, and the next morning, the ghost is gone. Charlotte misses him, but feels better when he sends her a picture he's drawn of the two of them having fun together. Reading this story can help children who worry about sharing to understand that it's possible with practice, that it's fun, and that it can allow them to have real friendships.

Ages: 2-6
Cultural Context: European

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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