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.

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

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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